Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

. (page 32 of 67)
Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 32 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


and so both you and we pi^ess toido, only we dififer both about the
nature of it and the proper m^an&of attaining it Foi iihe nature of
it, yon eonceive it k> consist in the '^ explicit er impSiett belief of all
things md diKstrines detacmmed ^ taught, and |m>posed hy your
dnurch [tojbe believed, and nottiingellse (with.foiih supeisaatural) but
what is 00 taught and proposed.^ But this description cf lihe unity
of faith we can by no meanaadmit of:- — L.Beeattse it is novd. It
hath no footstep in any writingaof tibe apo6tle8,.not of the first fathers
or writ^ of the church, nor in the pmctioe of tbe^ disciples of Ohrist
for many age& That the^ extermination of the Somen diarch, and
its proplosal of thinga oi^ aif^t^es to be believed, should be the ade«
quate rule of &ithi imiQ aUil^Ueyers^ia a naatter as finoeign unto all



Digitized by



Google



858 A VINDICATION OF THE ANMADVEBSIONS ON FUT LUX.

antiquity as that the prophecies of Montanus should be so. 2. Be-
cause it makes the unity of faith, after the fiiU and last revelation of
the will of Qod, flux, alterable, and unstable, liable to increase and
decrease ; whereas it is uniform, constant, always the same in all ages,
times, and places, since the finishing of the canon of the Scriptures.
For we know, and all the world knows, that your church hath deter-
mined many things. lately — some x^^^ ^^^ Tpwfjy, as it were but ye&r
terday — ^to be believed, which itself had never before determined,
and so hath increased the rule of faith, moved its centre, and extended
its circumference; and what she may farther determine and propose
to-morrow, no man knows. And yom: duty it is to be ready to believe
whatever she shall so propose; whereby you cannot certainly know
unto your dying day whether you do beUeve all that may belong to
the unity of faith or no. Nay, — 3. Your church hath determined and
proposed to be believed express contradictions: which determina-*
tions abiding on record, you are not agreed which of them to adhere
imto; as is manifest in your oonciliary decirees about the power of the
Pope and the Council, unto which of them the pre-eminence is due.
Now, this is a strange rule of the unity of faith, that is not only ca-
pable of increase, changes, and alterations, so that that may belong
unto it one day which did not belong unto it another, — as is evident
from your Tridentine decrees, wherein you made many things neces-
sary to be believed which before were esteemed but probable, and
were the subjects of sophistical altercations in your schools, — but also
compriseth in itself express coiitradictions ; which cannot at all belong
imto faith, .b€K»u^e both of them may be false, one of them must be
BO ; nor to unity, because contrary and adverse. 4. Whereas holding
** the u^iity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," or the unity of faith,
is so great and important a duty unto all Christians, that they can
W) way discharge their consciences imto Qod without a well-groimded
satisfaction that they live in the performance of it, this description
of its nature renders it moraUy impossible for any man explicitly to
know (and that only a man knows which he knows explicitly) that
he doth answer his duty herein. For, (1.) The determinations of your
church of things to be believed are so many and various, tiiat it is
not within the compass of an ordinary diligence and ability to searcl^
and find them out Nor, when a man hath done his utmost, can he
obtain any tolerable security that. there have not other determinations
been made, that he is not as yet come to an acquaintance with all, or
that he ever shall so do; and how in this case he can have any satis-
&ctory persuasion that he keeps the unity of faith, is not as yet made
evident (2.) In the determinations he may meet withal, or by any
jneans come to the knowledge of, he is to receive and believe the things
determined and proposed unto him in the sense intended by th^



Digitized by



Google



PBOTESTAKt DOCTRIKE OlT XTNITt OF FArtH. * i5ff

churchy or else he is never the nearer to his end : but what that sense
is in the most of your church's proposals, your doctors do so endlessly
quarrel among themselves, that it is impossible a man should come
unto any great certainty in his inquiry after it; yet a precise meaning
in all her proposals your church must have, or she hath none at alL
What shall a man do, when he comes unto one of your great masters
to be acquainted with the genuine sense of one of your church's pro-
posals? this being the way that he takes for his satisfaction: — First,
he speaks unto the article or question to be considered in general;
then gives the different senses of it according to these and those
femous masters, the most of which he confutes, — who yet all of them
professed themselves to explain and to speak according to the sense
of yomr church; and, lastly, gives his own interpretation of it, which,
it may be, within a few months is confuted by another. (3.) Suppose
a man have attained a knowledge of all that your chiurch hath de-
termined and proposed to be believed, and to a right understanding
of her precise sense and meaning in all her determinations and propo-
sals, — which I believe never yet man attained unto, — ^yet what assur-
ance can he have^ if he live in any place remote from Rome, but that
your church may have made some new determinations in matters of
fiedth, whose embracement, in the sense which she intends, belongs
unto his keeping the unity of futh, which yet he is not acquainted
withal ? Is it not simply impossible for him to be satisfied at any
time that he believes all that is to be believed, or that he holds the
unity of faith ? Your late pontifical determination in the case of the
Jansenists and Molinists is sufficient to illustrate this instance. For
I suppose you are equally bound not to believe what your church
condemneth as heretical, as you are bound to believe what it pro-
poseth for Catholic doctrina (4.) I desire to know when a man
who lives here in England begins to be obliged to believe the deter-
minations of your church that are made at Bome. It may be he first
hears of them in a " Mercury" or weekly news-book; or it may be he
hath notice of them by some private letters, from some who live near
the place; or it may be he bath a knowledge of them by common
report; or it may be they are printed in some books, or that there i£l
a brief of them published somewhere under the name of the pope ; or
they are put into some volume written about the councils; or some
religious person, on whom he much relies, assures him of them. I
know you believe that your church's proposition is a sufficient means
of the revelation of any article, to make it necessary to be believed;
but I desire to know what is necessary to cause a man to receive
any dictate or doctrine as your church's proposition? — not only upon
this account, that you are not very well agreed upon the " requisita **
unto the making oi such a proposition, but also because, be you as



Digitized by



Google



260 A VINDICATIOK OP THE ANMADVERSIOKS <>K FIAXXUX.

inJEJlible aa you please in your proposal^ the means and ways yoa
Bse to oommumcato those proposals yOu make mito mdividuals in
whom alone the £uih Whereof we treat exists are all of them &llible
Now, that which I desire to Imow is, What is or what are thoi^
certain means and ways of commuaicaAing the propositions ot your
ehurdi unto ai^ peirson, wherein he is boimd to acquiesce, and ttpon
the application of them unto him to believe tiiem, '^ fidedivinaeui non
potest subease falsum V Is it any one thing, or way, or means, that
[forms] the hinge upon which his assent turns ? or is it a complioation
ef many things concurring to the same purpose? If it be any one
tiling, way, or medium, that you fix upon, pray let us know it, and
we shall examine its fitness and snfficieiM^ for the use you put it unto.
I-am sure we shall find it to be either infcMAle or/aUHie. If you
say the former^ and that that particular upon which the assent ot a
man's mind unto any thing to be the proposal of your church de-
pends, must, in the testimony it gives asid evidence that it afifords^
be esteemed in&llible, then you have as many infeJlible personi^
things, or writings^ as you make use of to aequaint one anotW with,
the determinatiions of your church; that iS| upon the matter, you bj»
all so, though I know in particular that you are not If the laaer^
notwithsteokling the first pretended inMible imposition, your Mik
-win be found to be tesolved immediately ii]ito a &llible information;
for what will it advantage me that the prcqposal of your church
cannot deceive me^ if I may be deceived in the communicating of
that proposal unto me ? And I can with nomcnre firmDess, certainty,
or assurance, believe the thing proposed uujto me» than I do believe
that it is the pitiposel of the church wherein it is mada For you
pretend not unto any self^d&noing ijffioacy in your church's {propo-
sitions, or things proposed by it; but all their authority, a$ to me,
turns upon the aasnrance that I have of their relation tmto your
<^urch, or that they are the proposals of your churdi, concerning
which I have nothing but very faUible evidence, and so cannot possi-'
bly believe them with fedth divine and supematuraL If you shiJl say
that there are maoy things concurring unto this oommunicaticm of
your diuroh's pr(qx)8al unto a man, as the natorieijf of the/act, auU-
aUeproceedingi upon ^, books written to prove it, teetimonies of good
men, and the lUce, I cannot but mind you that all these being '' s^^
latim,'' eveiy one apart folliUe, they canndt in their conspiracy unprove
themselves into an infSiJIibility. Strengthen a probabUity tney may ;
testify infallibly tiiey neither do nor can. So that, on this account^
it is not only in^>08sible for a man to know whether he holds the
unity of fidth or no, but, indeed, whether he believe Any iking at aU
with foith supernatural and divine, seeing he hath no infollibia evi^
denee for what isptc^posed unto him to believe^ to build his fiedth upon*



Digitized by



Google



PBOTESTAOT: DOCTBINE ON UIOTY OF FAITH. 261

6. Frotestants are not satisfied with your g^ieral implicii assetU
tinto what your church teadielh aud determineth^ which you have
invented to solve the difficulties that attend your description of the
unity of faith Of what use it may be unto othesr purposes, I do not
now dispute; but as to this, of the preservation of the unity of feithy
it is certainly of none at all The unity of &ith consists in all men's
express believing all that all men are bound expressly to believe, be
it what it will Now, you would have this preserved by men's not
believing what they are bound to believe: for what belongs to this
keeping the unity gI faith, they are bound to believe expressly; aud
what they believe implicitly, they do indeed no more but not ex**
pressly disbeUeve, — for if they do any more than not disbelieve, they
put forth some act of their understanding about it, and so far expressly
believe it: so tbat, upon the matter, you would have men to keep the
unity of fedth by a not believing (^ that which, that they may keep the
unity of £Edih, they are bound expressly to believe; nor can you do
otherwise whilst you make all the propositions of your church of
things to be believed to belong to the unity of faith. Lastly, The
deierminaiions of your church you make to be the neici efficient
cauge of your unity. Now these, not being absolutely in&llible, leave
it, like Delos, flitting up and down in the sea of probabilities only.
This we shall manifest unto you immediately; at least, we shall evi«
dence that you have no cogent reasons nor stable grounds to prove
your diurch infallible in her determinationa At present, it shall
suffice to mind you that she hath determined contradictions, and
that in as eminait a manner as it is possiUe for her to declare her
saise by, — namely, by councils confirmed by popes ; and an infallible
detamination of contradictions is not a notion of any easy digestion
in the thoughts of a man in his right wits. We confess, then, that
we cannot agree with you in' your rule of the unity of faith, though
the thing itself we press after as our duty. For, (2.) Protestants do
not conceive this unity to consist in a precise determination of all
questions that are or may be raised in or about things belonging
unto the feith, whether it be made by your church or any other way.
Your Thomas of Aquine,^ who without question is the best and most
sober of all your school doctors, hath in one book given us five hun*
dred and twenty-two articles of religion, which you esteem miracu*
lously stated : '' Quot articuli, tot miracula'' All these have at least
five questions, one with another, stated and determined in explica-
tion of them; which amount unto two thousand six hundred and
ten condusbns in mattere of religion. Now, we are far firom think-

^ Aquino, anciently Aquinnm, is a citj, now decayed, within the Idngdoin of Kaplea
Our author inyariabl j gives the word a French termination, and there seemed no neces-
Bitj to change it into ^ modern form.— Ed^



Digitized by



Google



262 A VINDICATION OF THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

ing that all these determinations, or the like, belong unto the unity
of £Bdth, though much of the rdigion amongst some of you lies in
not dissenting from them. The questions that your Bellarmine hath
determined and asserted, the positions in them as of faith, and ne-
cessary to be believed, are, I think, near forty times as many as the
articles of the ancient creed of the church, and such as it is most
evident that, if they be of the nature and importance pretended, it
is impossible that any considerable number of men should ever be
able to discharge their duty in this business of holding the unity of
fwth. That a man believe in general that the holy Scripture is given
by inspiration from Qod, and that all things proposed therein for him
to believe are therefore infallibly true, and to be as such believed;
and that, in particular, he believe every article or point of truth that
he hath sufficient means for his instruction in, and conviction that it
is so revealed ; they judge to be necessary unto the holding of the
unity of frdtL ^d this also they know, that this sufficiency of
means unto every one that enjoys iJie benefit of the Scriptures, ex-
tends itself unto all those articles of truth which are necessary for
him to believe, so as that he may yield unto Qod the obedience that
he requireth, receive the Holy Spirit of promise, and be accepted
with Qod. Herein doth that unity of frtith which is amongst the
disciples of Christ in the world consist, and ever did; nor can do so
in any thing else. Nor doth that variety of apprehensions that in
many things is found among the disciples of Christ, and ever was,
render this unity, like that you plead for, various and uncertain; for
the rule and formal reason of it, — namely, Qod's revelation in the
Scripture, — ^is still one and the same, perfectly unalterabla And the
several degrees that men attain unto in their apprehensions of it do
no more reflect a charge of variety upon it than the difference of
seeing, as to the several degrees of the sharpness or obtuseness of our
bodily eyes, doth upon the light given by the sun. The truth is, if
there was any common measure of the assents of men, either as to
the intension of it, as it is subjectively in their minds, or extension
of it, as itrespecteth truths revealed, that belonged unto the unity of
faith, it were impossible there should be any such thing in the world,
at least that any such thing should be known to be. Only this I
acknowledge, that it is the duty of all men to come up to the full
and explicit acknowledgment of all the truths revealed in the word
of Qod, wherein the glory of Qod and the Christian's duty are con-
cerned; as also to a joint consent in faith objective, or propositions of
truth revealed, at least in things of most importance, — though their
faith subjective, or the internal assent of their minds, have, as it will
have in several persons, various degrees, yea, in the same persons, it
may be, at different seasona And in our labouring to come up unto



Digitized by



Google



MOTESTANT DOCTRINE OK UNITT OP FAITH. 268

this joint acknowledgment of the same sense and intendment of Grod
in all revealed truths consists our endeavour after that perfection in
the unity of Mth' which in this life is attainable; as our moderation
doth in our walking in peace and love with and towards others, ac-
cording to what we have ahready attained. We may distinguish, then,
between that v/nity of faith which an interest in gives union with
Christ unto them that hold it, and communion in love with all equally
interested therein ; and that accomplishment of it which gives a same-
ness of profession, and consent in all acts of outward communion in
the wordiip of Qod. The first is found in and amoilgst all the dis-
ciples of Christ in the world, wherever they are; the latter is that
which, moreover, it is your duty to press after. The former consists
in an assent in general unto all the truths of Qod revealed in the
Scripture, and in particular unto them that we have sufficient means
to evidence them unto us to be so revealed. The latter may come
under a double consideration: for either there may be required unto
it, in them who hold it, the joint perception of and assent unto every
truth revealed in the Scripture, with an equal degree of certainty in
adherence and evidence in perception, — ^and it is not in this life,
wherein the best of us know but in part, attainable ; or only such a
concurrence in an assent unto the necessary propositions of truth as
may enable them to hold together that outward communion in the
worship of God which we before mentioned. And this is certainly at-
tainable by the ways and means that shall immediately be laid down ;
and where this is, there is the unity of feith in that completeness
which we are bound to labour for the attainment of. This the apos-
tolical churches enjoyed of old, and unto the recovery whereof there
is nothing more prejudicial than yomr new stating of it upon the ac-
count of your church's proposak

This unity of fiedth we judge good and necessary, and that it is our
duty to press aft«r it; so also in general do you. It remwns, then,
that we consider what is the way, what are the means and principles,
that Protestants propose and insist upon for the attainment of it;
that is, in answer to your question, " What it is that can settle any
man in the truth of reUgion, and unite all men therein f^ And then,
because you object this unto us, as if we were at some loss and un-
certainty therein, and yourselves very secure, I shall consider what
are the grounds and principles that you proceed upon for the same
ends and purposes, — namely, to " settle any man in the truth of re-
ligion, and to bring all men to a harmony and consent therdn.''

Now, I shall herein manifest unto you these two things: — 1. That
the principles which the Protestants proceed upon, in the improve-
ment whereof they obtain themselves assured and in&Jlible settle-
ment in the truth^ and labour to reduce others unto the unity of



Digitized by



Google



'264 A VTNDICATICMff eP THB ANIICADVEBSIONS ON FUT LUX

faith, are such aa are both swUed unto, and sufficient for, the end
and work which they deaiga to effect by them^ and also in them-
aelves of euch unquestionable truth, certainty, and evidence, that
either they are all granted by yourselves, or oannot be denied with-
out shaking the very foundations of Christianity. 2. That those
which you proceed upon are some of them tmirite, and most of them
dvhiovs and questumcMe, none of them able to bear the we^ht that
you lay upon them; and some of them such as the admission of
would give just cause to question the whole truth of Christian reli-
gion. And both these, sir, I crave leave to manifest unto you,
whereby you may the better judge whether the Scripture or your
church be the best way to bni^ men unto settlement in religion,
which is the thing inquired after,

I. Protestants lay down this as the h ^^x^ rn^ if^n4tdtsot€ nai o/ao-
XayiaQ, — as '' the very beginning and first principle of their confidence
and confession,"' — ^that <M Scripture is given by inspiration ef Ood,
as the Holy Ghost teacheth them, 2 Tim. iiL 16; that is^ that the
books of the Old and New Testament were all of them written by
the immediate guidance, direction, and inspiration of Qod; — ^ihe
hand of the LoBD,^' as David [^>eak8) 1 Chron. xxviiL 19, being upon
the penmen thereof in writing; and his Spirit, as Peter informs us^
speaking in them, 1 Pet L 11: so that whatever is contained and
delivered in them is given out from God, and is received on his
authority. This principle I suppose you grant to be trua Do you
not? If you will deny it, say so, and we will proceed no ftrther until
we have proved it I know you have various ways laboured to un-
dermine the «urMnr#r/B of the holy Scriptures; many queries you put
imto men, bow they can know k to be firom God, to be true, from
heaven, and not of men? — ^many scruples you endeavour to possess
them with against its authority. It is not my present business to
remove them; it is sufficient unto me, — 1. That you yourselves,
who differ from us in other things, and with whom our contest about
the best way of coming to settlement in the truth alone is, do acknow-
ledge this principle we proceed upon to be true. And, — 2. That ye
cannot oppose it without setting yoursdives to dig up the v^ foun-
f ^Christian religion, and to open a way to let in an inunda-
iheism on the w(^ld. So our first step is fixed on the grand
Qtal principle of all the religion and acceptable worship of
is in the world

Ley affirm that this Scripture evidencetk itself by many in-
'%%fhfi^tcL to be so given by inspiration from Qod; and, be-
¥itnessed so to be by the testimony of the church of God
days of Moses, wherein it began to be written, to the days
^e live, - our Lord Christ and his apostles asserting and con-



Digitized by



Google



FB0TB8TANT DOCTBIKfi ON UNITY OF FAITH. 265

firming the same testimony; which testimony is conveyed unto us by
unintenrupted catholic tradition. The first part of this position, I
eonfess, some of you deny; and the latter part of it you generally all
of you pervart, confining the testimony sftentioned unto that of yoiu:
present churdi; which is a yery inccmsiderable part of it, if any part
at all But how groundlesdy, how prejudicially to the verity and
honour of Christiaa religion in general, you do these things, I shall
briefly show yoa

Some of you, I say, deny the first part of this assertion; so doth
Andradius, Defens. OondL Trident lib. iiL *^ Neque enim,"' saith he,
** in ipsis Hbris quibus sacra mysteria c(mscripta sunt, quicquam inest
divinitatis, quod nos ad credaidum qu«B illis continentur, religione
aliqua constringat;^' — ^'Neither is there in the books themselves,
wherein the holy mysteries are written, any thing of divinity that
should constrain us, by virtue of any religious respect thereunto, to
believe the things that are ccmtained in them." Hence CoehhBUS, lib;
iL De Authoritate Ecdes. et Script, gathers up a [great] many in-
Mtanc6$<mt of the book of the Scripture, whkh he declares to be alto-
gether incredible^ were it not fbr the authority of the church. I need
not mention any more of your leaders concurring with them; you
know who is of the same mind with them, if the autiior of " Fiat
Lax'* be not unknown to you. Your resolving universal tradition
into the authority of your present church, to which end there is a
book written not long smoe by a Jesuit^ under the name of Yineen-
tius Severinus, is no less notorious. Some of you, I confess, are more
modest, and oth^wise minded, as to both parts of our assertion.
See Malderus, Episcop. Antwerp. De Object Fidei, qu. I; Yaselius
Oroningai. De Potestat £cele& et Epist ad Jacob. Hock. Alliacena
in lib. i Sentent Artia S; Qerson Exam. Doc. part 2, ccmsid. i
tom. i foL 105; and in twenty other placea But when you come to
deal with Protestants, and consider well tiie tendency of this asser-.
lion, you use, I confess, a hundred tergiversations, and are most un-
willing to come to the acknowledgment of it; and, rath^ than suffer
firom it, deny it downright, and that with scurrilous reflections and



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 32 of 67)