Andrew Thomson John Owen.

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foHh hie word by inspiration was, thai it Tnight be a stable, infallible
revelation of his mind and will as to that knowledge which he would
have manldnd entertain of him, with that worship and obedience
which he requireth of them, that so they may please him in this
world, and come unto the fruition of him unto all eternity. God»
who is the formal object, is ako the {nime cause of all reli^ous wor-
ship. What is due unto him as the fiiBt cause, last end, and sovereign

VOL. XIV. 18



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274 A VINDICATION OF THE ANMADVEBSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

Lord of all, as to the substance of it, and what he farther appoints
himself as to the manner of its performance, suited unto his own
holiness, and the condition wherein in reference unto our last end we
stand and are, making up the whole of it, — ^that he hath given his
word to reveal these things unto us, to be our rule, guide, and direc-
tion in our ways, walkings, and universal deportment before him, is,
as I take it, a fimdamental principle of our Christian profession.
Neither do I know that this is denied by your church, although you
startle at the inferences that are justly made from it I shall not
need, therefore, to add any thing in its confirmation, but only mind
you again that the calling of it into question is directly against the
very heart of all religion, and the unanimous consent of all that in
the world are called Christians, or ever were so. Tea, and it must
be granted, or the whole Scripture esteemed a fietble, because it fre-
quently declares that it is given unto us of God for this end and
purpose. And hence do Protestants infer two other conclusions, on
which they build their persuasion concerning the unity of fodth, and
the proper means of their settlement therein: —

1. That therefore the Scripture is perfect and every way com-
plete, — namely, with respect unto that end whereunto of God it is
designed ; a perfect and complete revelation of the will of God as
to his worship and our obedience. And we cannot but wonder that
any who profess themselves to believe that it was given for the end
mentioned, should not have that sacred reverence for the wisdom,
goodness, and love of its Author imto mankind, as freely to assent
unto this inference and conclusion: " He is our Bock, and his work is
perfect^' And lest any men should please themselves in the imagina-
tion of contributing any thing towards the effecting of the end of his
word by a supply unto it, he hath strictly forbidden them any such
addition, Deut iv. 2, xil 32, Prov. xxx. 6; which, if it were not com-
plete in reference imto its proper end, would hold no great corre-
spondency with that love and goodness which the same word every-
where declares to be in him. I suppose you know with how many
express testimonies of Scripture itself this truth is confirmed ; which,
added unto that light and evidence which, as a deduction from the
former fundamental truth, it hath in itself, is very suflicient to render
it unquestionabla You may at your leisure, besides those fore-named,
consult Ps. xix. 8; Isa. viil 20; EzeL xxxvL 27; Matt xv. 6; Luke
I 3, 4, xvL 29, 31, xxiv. 25-27; John v. 39, xx. 9; Acts 116, xvii
2, 3, XX. 27, xxvi 22; Rom. x. 17, xv. 4; 1 Cor. xiv. 6; Gal. I 8;
EpL ii. 19, 20; 2 Tim. iiL 16, 17; Heb. L 1; 2 Pet i 19; Rev.
xxii 18. For though texts of Scripture are not appointed for us
to " throw at one another's heads," as you talk in your ** Fiat,"
yet they are for us to use and insist on in the confirmation of the



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PBOTESTANT DOCTMNE OF UNITY OF FAITH. 275

truth, if we may take the example of Christ and all his apostles for
our warrant And it were endless to recite the full and plain testi-
monies of the ancient fathers and councils to this purpose; neither
is that my present design, though I did somewhat occasionally
that way upon the former principle. It shall suffice me to show
that the denial of this assertion also, as it is inferred from the fore-
going principle,, is prejudicial, if not pernicious, to Christian reli*
gion in general The whole of our faith and profession is resolved
into the known excellencies and perfections of the nature of Qod.
Amongst these there are none that have a more immediate and
quickening influence into them than his wisdom, goodness, grace,
care, and love towards them unto whom he is pleased to reveed him-
self; nor is there any property of his nature that in his word he
more frequently gives testimony unto. And all of them doth he de-
clare himself to have exalted and glorified in a signal manner, in that
revelation which he hath made of himself, his mind and will therein.
I suppose this cannot be denied by any who hath the least sense of
the importance of the things revealed. Now, if the revelation made
for the end before proposed be not perfect and complete, — ^that is,
sufficient to enable a man to know so much of Qod, his mind and
will, and to direct him so in his worship and obedience unto him, as
that he may please him here and come to the frxdtion of him here-
after, — ^it must needs become an evident means of deceiving him and
ruining him, and that to all eternity. And the least fear of any such
event overthrows all the notions which he had before entertained of
those blessed properties of the divine nature; and so, consequently,
disposeth him unto atheism. For if a man hath once received the
Scripture as the word of Qod, and that [as] given imto him to be his
guide unto heaven by Qod himself if one shall come to him and tell
him, " Yesiy but it is not a perfect guide ; but though you should attend
sincerely to all the directions that it gives you, yet you may come
short of your duty and expectation ; you may neither please Qod here
nor come to the fruition of him her^ifber ;" — in case he should assent
unto this suggestion, can he entertain any other thoughts of Qod but
such as omr first parents did, when, by attendance unto the fiedse in-
sinuations of the old serpent, they cast off his sovereignty and their
dependence on him? Neither can you relieve him against such
thoughts by your pretended traditionid supply, seeing it will stiU be
impossible for him to look on this revelation of the will of Qod as
imperfect and insufficient for the end for which it plainly professeth
itself to be given forth by him, without some intrenchment on those
notions of his nature which he had before received ; for it will pre-
sently occur unto him, that, seeing this way of revealing himself for
the ends mentioned is good, and ^proved of himself so to be, if he



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276 A YIKDICATIOK OF THE ANmADy£BSI0N3 ON HAT LUX.

hath not made it complete for that end, it wad either because he oould
not; and where, then, is his vrUdom! or because he would not; and
where, then, is his love, care, and goodness? and seeing he saith be
hath done what you would haye him to believe that he hath not done,
where is his truth and veracity t Certainly, a man that seriously
ponders what he hath to do, and knows the vanity of an irrational,
fimatical ''credo,^ will oondude that either the Scripture is to be
teoeived as perfect or not to be received at alL

8. Protcetants conclude hence, That the Scripture^ given of Ood
for this pwrpossy ie irUelligibU unto tnen usivg the means hy Chd
appointed to come to ihe understanding of his mind and wiU therein^
I know many of your way are pleased grievously to mistake our
intention in this inference and conclusion. Sometimes they would
impose upon us to say that all places of Scripture, all words and
ssatences in it, aiB plun, and of an obvious sense, and easy to be
understood. And yet this you know, or may know if you please,
and, I am sure, ought to know before you talk of these things with
OS, that we absolutely deny. It is one thing to say that aU nsceesary
truth is plainly and clearly revealed in the Scripture, whidi we do
say; and another, that every text and passage in the Scripture 'm
plain and easy to be understood, which we do not say, nor ever
thought, as confessing that to say so were to contradict our own ex-
perience and that of the disciples of Christ in all agea Sometimes
you feign as though we asserted all Hie things that are revealed in
the Scripture to be pUun and obvious to every man's understanding;
whereas we acknowledge that the things themselves revealed are
many of them mysterious, surpassing the comprehension of any fnan
in this world, and only mcuntain that the propositions wherein the
revelation of them is made are plain and intelligible unto them that
use the means aj^ointed of God to come to a right understanding of
theuk And sometimes you would commit this with another prin*
ciple of ours, whereby we assert Uiat the supematwnal lic^ of grace,
to be wrought in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, is necessary to give
unto us a savii^ perception and understanding of the mind of God
in the Scripture; for what needs such q)ecial assistance in so plain
a matter? as though the asserting of the perspicuity in the object
made ability to discern in the subject altogether unnecessary, or that
be who affirms the sun to give light doth at the same time affiim
also that men have no need of eyes to see it withaL Besides, we
know there is a vast difference between a notional speculative appre-
hension and perception of the meaning and truth of the propositions
contained in the Scripture, — which we acknowledge that every reason-
able, unprejudiced person may attain unto,— and a gnicious, saving,
q)iritual perc^tton of them, <uid assent unto them witii faith divine



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PB0TE8TANT DOCTRINE OP UKITT OP PATTH. £7T

aad snpematural; and this, we say, is the especial y?<ttk of tiie Holj
Ghost in the hearts of the elect And I know not how many other
exceptions you make to keep yourselves from a right underatanding
of our intention in this inference ; but, as yourself dsewhere learnedly
observe, ** Who so blind as he that will not see!" I shall therefore
once more, that we may proceed, declare unto you what it is that we
intend in this assertion ;-<^it is, namely, that the things which are
revealed in the Scripture, to the end that, by the belief of them and
obedience unto them, we may please Gk>d, are so proposed and de^
dared that a man, any man, free from prejudices and temptations,
in and by the use of the means appointed him of Gbd for that puri-
pose, may come to the understanding (and that infallibly) of all that
God woudd have him know or do in religion, there being no defect or
hinderance in the Scripture, or manner of its revealing things neces-
sary , that should obstruct him therein. What are the means appointed
of God for this purpose we do not now inquire, but shall anon dedara
What defect, blindness, or darkness there is, may be, in and upon the
minds of men in their depraved, lapsed conditiony-^^r-what disadvan^
tages they may be cast under by tjieir prejudices, traditions, negli-
gences, sins, and profanene8S,-t^belong8 not unto our {Hresent disqui-
sition. That which we assert oonoems merely the manner of the
proposal of the truths to be believed which are revealed in the Sorip-
ture; and this, we say, is sudi as that there is no impossibility, no,
nor great difficulty, but that a man may come to the right understand*-
ing of them,— not as to the comprehension of the things themselves,
but the perception of the sense of the propositions wherein they are
expressed. And this assertion of ours is, as the former, grounded on
the Scripture itsel£ See, if you please, Deut xxx. 11 ; Pa xix. 8,
cxix. 105; Prov. vl 23; 2 Cor. iv. 3; 2 Pet L 19. And to deny it
is to pluck up all religion by the roots, and to turn men loose unto
sceptidsm, libertinism, and atheism; and that with such a horrid
reproach unto God himself, as that nothing more abominable can be
invented. The devil of old, h&ng not able to give out certain answers
unto them that came to inquire about their concernments at his
orades, put ihem off a long time with dubious, enigmatical, unintel-
ligible sophisms; but when once the world had, by expmence, study,
and observation, improved itself into a wisdom beyond the pitch of
its first rudeness, men began generally to despise what they saw could
not be certsunly understood. This made the devil pluck in his horns,
as not finding it for the interest of his kingdom to expose himself to
be scoffed at by them with whose follies and fenatical credulity, in
esteemii^ h^hly of that which could not be understood, he had for
many generations eported himselE And do they not blaq>hemousIy
expose the oraelesof Uie t^ie, holy, and living God to no less cod-



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278 A VINDICATION OF THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

tempt, who, for their own sinister ends, would frighten men from
them with the ugly scarecrow of obscurity , or their not being intel-
ligible unto eveiy man by the use of means, so far as he is concerned
to know them, and the mind of God in them? And herein also
Protestants stand as firmly as the fundamentals of Christianity will
bear them.

IV. Protestants believe that it is the diUy of all men who desire to
know the wiU of God, and to worship him according wnto his mind,
to use diligence, in the improvem^ent of the m^ans appointed for that
end, to come imto a right and full understanding of all things in the
Scripture wherein their fEuth and obedience are concerned. This
necessarily follows fr^m the principles before laid down; nor is it
possible it should be otherwise. It is doubtless incumbent on eveiy
man to study and know his duty. That cannot be a man's duty
which he is not bound to know, especially not such a duty as whereon
his eternal wel&re should depend ; and I suppose a man can take no
better course to come to the knowledge of his duty than that which
God hath appointed for that purposa His commands and exhorta-
tions, which we have given us in the Scripture, for our diligence in
this matter, with the explications and improvements of them in the
writings of the fathers, are so obvious, tnte, and known, that it were
mere loss of time to insist on the repetition of them. I suppose I
should speak within compass if I should say that one Chrysostom
doth, in a hundred places, exhort Christians of all sorts to the dili-
gent study and search of the Scriptures, and especially of the epistles
of Paul, — ^not the most plain and easy part of them. I know the
practice of your church lies to the contrary, and what you plead in
the justification of that practice; but I am sorry both for her and
you, — ^both for the contrivers o^ and consenters unto, this abomina-
tion; and I fear what your account will be as to this matter at the
last day. God having granted the inestimable benefit of his word
unto mankind, revealing therein unto them the only way by which
they may attain unto a blessed eternity, is it not the greatest ingra-
titude that any man can possibly contract the guilt oi^ to neglect the
use of it? What, then, is your condition, who, upon slight and tri-
vial pretences, set up your own wisdom and authority against the
wisdom and authority of God; advising and commanding men, upon
the pain of your displeasure in this world, not to attend unto that
whidi God commands them to attend unto, on pain of his displeasure
in the world to come? So that though I confess that you deny this
principle, yet I cannot see but that you do so, not only upon the
hazard of your own souls and the souls of them that attend unto you,
seeing that " if the blind lead the blind, both must fall into the ditch ;"
but also that you do it to the great prejudice of Christian religion in



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PBOTESTANT DOCTRINE OF UNITY OF FAITH. 279

the very foundations of it For what can a man rationally conclude,
that shall see you driving all persons, and that on no small penalties,
excepting yourselyes who are concerned in the conspiracy, and some
few others whom you suppose su£Sciently initiated in your mysteries,
from the reading and study of those books wherein the world knows,
and yourselyes confess, thai the arcana of Christian religion are con-
tained, but that there are some things in them, like the hidden
" sacra "" of the old pagan hierophants, which may not be disclosed,
because, however countenanced by a remote veneration, yet are [they]
indeed " turpia'' or " ridicula>" — things to be ashamed of or scorned?
And the truth is, some of your doctors have spoken very suspiciously
this way, whilst they justify your practice in driving the people from
the study of the Scripture, by intimations of things and expressions
not so pure and chaste as to be fit for the knowledge of the promis-
cuous multitude; when, in the meantime, themselves or their asso-
ciates do publish unto all the world, in their rules and directions for
confession, such abominable filth and ribaldry as, I think, was never
by any other means vented amongst mankind.

y. Protestants say that the Lord Christ hath instituted his churchy
and therein appointed a ministry to preside over the rest of his
disciples in his name, and to unfold unto them his mind and wiU
as recorded in his word; for which end he hath promised his pre-
sence with them by his Spirit unto the end of the world, to enable
them, in an hiunble dependence on his assistance, to find out and
declare his commands and appointments unto their brethren. This
position, I suppose, you will not contend with us about; although I
know that you put another sense upon most of the terms of it than
the Scripture will allow, or we can admit of

These are the principles of Protestants; this is the progress of
their faith in coming unto settlement and assurance. These are the
foundations, which are as unquestionable as any thing in Christi-
anity; the m^st of them, yourselves being judge& And firom them
one of these two things will necessarily follow, — either. That all men,
unto whom the word of God doth come, will come to an agreement
in the truth, or the unity of Mth; or, secondly. That it is their own
fault if they do not so do : for what, upon these principles, should hin-
der them from so doing? All saving truth is revealed by God in the
Scripture, unto the end that men may come to the knowledge of it
It is so revealed by him that it is possible, and, with his assistance,
easy, for men to know aright his mind and will about these things
so revealed ; and he hath appointed regular ways and means for
men to wait upon him in and by, for the obtaining of his assistance.
Now, pray, revive your question that gave occasion unto this dis-
course, — However men may differ in religion, why is not the Scrip*



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280 Jl VINBICiLTIOll Of THE ANIK ADVBESI0N8 ON FUT LUX.

ture Buffunent to bring them tmto an agt^ement and settlement?
Take heed that in your answer you deny not some principle that
will involve the whole interest of Christianity in its rain. Where is
the defect? where the hinderance why all men, npon these principle^
however differing at present, may not come to a full settlement and
agreement? I hope you will find none but what are in themselves;
and for them, '^ ipsi viderint/' the Scripture is blameless. Here is cer^
tainty of revelation from Ood, — ^fulness of that revelation as to our
duty, deamees and perspicuity for our understanding of it, — ^means
fq>pointed and sanctified for that end; what, I pray, is wanting? All
truths wherein it is the duty of men to agree are fixed and stated, so
Uiat it can never be lawful for any man, in any generation, to call
any of them into queirtiion; — ^plain and evident, that no man can mis-
take the mind of God in them in things wherein his duty is con-
cerned, without his own crime and guilt You will say, then, it may
be, '' But why, then, do not men agree? why do you not agree among
yourselves?" But I would hope that it is scarcely possible for any
man to be so ignorant of the conditicm of mankind, and amongst
them of the best of men, as seriously to ask this question* Are not
all men naturally blind in the things of Qod? Do not the best of
men know only in part? Have not the dijfferent tempers, constitu-
tions, and educations of men a great influence upon their under-
standings and judgments? Besides, do not lust, corruptions, carnal
interests, and respect imto worldly things, bear sway in the minds of
many that profess Christian religion? Are not many prepossessed
with prejudices, traditions, customs, and usages against the truth?
And are not these things, and the like, sufficient to ke^ up variance
in the world, without the least 6uq)icion of any disability in the
Scripture to bring them to a holy agreement and immovable settle-
ment? Neither is there any other way for men to come unto settle-
ment and agreement in religion, according to the mind of God, but
that only which hath been now proposed; and this they will come
unto when all men shall be persuaded to captivate their imderstand-'
ings to the obedience of MtL I deny not that by outward force
and compulsion, by mptM negUgence of their own concernments,
by refusing to bethink tiiemselves, and such other ways and means,
some men may come to some agreement amongst themselves in the
things of religion* But this agreement, we say, is not of God, it \a
not built upon rh ^i^JX/©ir tng firtanug M ei^i', — " the foundation ot
faith towards Gk)d;" and so is of no esteem with hinu That such
is all the imity which, on your principles, you are able to bring men
unto, we diall manifest in our next diecoursa For the present, I dare
challenge you, or any man in the world, to question or oppose any
one of the principles b^ore laid down; and which, whilst they stand



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PEINCIPLES OF PAPISTS ON THE UKIIT OP FAITH. 28 1

firm, it is evident unto all how the Scripture is able to settle men
unquestionably in the truth, and that for ever, S^^ Uu dts^as. I
shall dose this discourse with a passage out of Chrjsostom, which
fully confirms all that I have asserted; it is in HomiL 38, in Act
Apost cap. XV. T/ oSr, saith he, &9 %h»fMv ^^g ro£f( 'EXK^mg ; "Epx^rcu
"EXKjff, xoU Xf/f J Irt jSo^Xof^a/ yivMou Xptariou^i, dXK* o^x cJda rtvt ^^wh
6Stfibah — *^ What shall we say unto the Oentiles ? A Qentile cometh and
saith, ' I would be a Chri^oan, but I know not unto whom amongst
you I should adhere.'" Let us hear the reasons of his hesitation. Smth
he, Mdx,n ^rap bfi^ «noXX4 tm,} erd^tg^ ^rtXi)^ ^•^vCp;' voibv SXeofjMi doyfuti
ri aipritfo/uu; ixafrog Xtyti In «Xii^fi«* rm ru^AH; /lAiidh lx«( ttditg h
ratg ypafaTg- — " There are many cont^ations, seditions, and tumults
amongst you : what opinicm to choose I know n6t Every one says^ I
am in the truth ; [whotn shall I believe?] I am utterly ignorant of what
is in the Scripture about these thinga" Do you know whose objections
these are, and by whom they have been lately managed? WUl you
hear what Ohrjrsostom answers? Saith he, Udw y% rouro W%p nf^Sar d jnh
y&p XoyigfibcTg i\My9/i$f ci/^f tftfa/, s}x6rug f tf^puCou' f/df ratg ypapaTg Xsyofitf
<n&T%htiify aUrtu h\ ^Xo? %ai d^fiMg^ f SxoXor €^t rh xpiv6fji^¥C¥' ts rig ixthaig
Cv^funTy oSrog Xpi^iavSg* tl rig fink^traiy tSr^ vS^u r^u xa¥6¥$g roi^rou*
— " This makes whoUy for us; for if we should say that we believe
on probable reasonings^ thou mayet justly be troubled; but seeing
we profess that we believe in the Scriptures, which are. plain and
true, it is ea^ for thee to judge and determine. He that yields his
consent unto them, he is a Christian; and he that contends against
th^n is &ir firom the rule of Christianity."' And in the process of
his discourse, which is weU worth the perusal before you write any
more ^miliar epistles, he requires no more of a man to settle him in
the truth, but that he receive the Scripture, and have vcvv xai xpigiPy
*^ a mind and judgment,'' to use in the consideration of it

It remaineth now that we consider what it is that you propose
unto mai to bring them unto a settlement in religion, and all Chris-
tians to the unity of fiedth, with the principles that you proceed upon
to that purpose; which, because I would not too far lengthen out this
discourse, I shall refer to the next chapter.



CHAPTER VIII.

Principles of Papists, whereon they proceed in bringing men to a settlement in
religion and the unity of faith, examined.

YoUB plea to this purpose is blended with a double pretence of
pope and church. Scmaetimes you tell us of the pope and his suc-
cession to St Peter, and sometimes of th^ church and its authority.



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 34 of 67)