Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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ladess it bb the grant' of Pliocas unto Boniface that he should be'
cailled the Universal Bishop; who, to serve his own ends, was very*
libeml of that which was not at all in his power to bestow. And
yet neither is this, thoifgh it bie a means that you have more reason
to b^ aibhamed tfian to boai^ of, sufficient to foti^d your present claim,
considering hoW tkat name was in those days'no'lnore than a name,
— a mere airy, ambitious title, — ^that carried along with it no real
power, and " stet magni nominis umbra.''

Secondly, We cannot give our assent unto this claim of yourSi
beooiise we should thereby be necessitated to cut off from the church,
and coiiseqildntly aU hope of salvation^ far the greatest number of
men in the world who in this and all foregoing ages have called and
do " call upon the nftme of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and
oia^" This We dare not do, especially considering that many of thiem
hwTO spent, and do spend, their days in great affiction, for their tes-
timony unto Christ and his gospel; and many of them every day seal
tbefar testimony vKth their blood, — so belonging, as we believe, unto
tkat " holy akmy of martyrs'' T^hich continu^y praiseth God. Now,
as herein we* dare not concur with you, considerihg the charge given"
unt6 Timothy by Paul, M^ xo/ywvf/ afiapHati dXkorpfaig, — " Be not
partaker of other nietfs sitts;*' so indeed we are' persuaded that yoiir
o^nion, or r^her pfresutaption, in this matter, is extremely injurious
to the grftc^ of Christ, the love and goodness of God, as also to the
troth of the gospel- And therefore,—

Thirdly, We suppose this the most schismatical principle that
ever was broached under the sun, since there w&^ a church upon the
eafth; and that because, — (1.) It is the most gfroundless; (2.) The
most uncharitable that ever wasj and, (3.) Of the most' pernicious
cotasequence, as having a principal influence into the present irrecon-
cilableness of difierences among Christians in the world; which will
one day be charged on the adthors and abettors of it lor it will one
day appear that it is not the various conception of the minds of
peaceable men about the things of God, ndr the various degrees of
knowledge and fidth that aj*e f6und aniongst them, but groundless
impositions of thfcgs as liece^alry to be believed and practised be-
yond Scripture- Wdriiant, that aire the springs and causes of all, or

VOL. xnr. 20

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at least the most Uamable and sinful, differences among Chris-

Fourthly, We know this pretence, should it take place, would
prove extremely hazardous unto the truth of the promisee of Christ
given unto the catholic church. For suppose that to be one and the
same with the Boman, and whatever mishap may befall the one
must be thought to befall the other; for on our supposition they are
not only like Hippocrates's twins, that^ being bom together, wept and
joyed together, and together died, but like Hippocrates himself as
the same individual perscm or thing, being both the same, — one church
that hath two names, Catholic and Boman; that is, universal-parti-
cular: no otherwise two than as Julius Csesar was, when, by his over-
awing his colleague from the execution ot his office, they dated their
acts at Bome, '' Julio et Csesare oonsulibus;" for, as thev said, —

<*Koii Bibiilo qidoqxiam imper Bed Ceeearo fkotam est;
Nam Bibulo fieri ttnisale sH meminL"

Now, besides the failings which we know your church to have been
subject unto, in point of faith, manners^ and worship, it hath also
been at least in danger of destruction in the time of the prevalency
of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and Longobards^ especially when Bome
itself was left desolate and without inhabitant by Totilas. And what
yet farther may befall it before the end of the world, etoD iv yoimes
xtfTou, Only this I know^ that many are in expectation of a sad
catastrophe to be given unto it, and that an grounds not to be de-
spised. Now, Qod forbid that the church unto which the promises
are made should be once thought to be subject unto all the dangers
and hazards that you wilfully expose yourselves unto. So that as this
is a very groundless presumption in itself, so it is a veiy great aggra-
vation of your miscarriages also, whilst you seek to entitle the catho-
lic church of Christ unto them which can neither contract any such
guilt as you have done, nor be liable to any such misery or punish-
ment as you are.

Fifthly, We see not the promises made unto the catholic chim)h
fulfiUed v/rUo you,aa we see that to have be£edlen your church which
is contrary unto the promises that ever it should befisdl die catholia
The conclusion, then, will necessarily on both instances follow, that
either you are not the catholic church, or that the promises of Christ
have failed and been of none effect; and you may easily guess which
part of the conclusion it is best and most safe for us to give assent
unta I shall give you one or two instances unto this last head.
Christ hath promised his Spirit unto his church, — ^Ihat is, his catholic
church, — to " abide with it for ever," John xiv. 16. But this promise
hath not been made good unto your church at all times, because it

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batli not been so nnto the head of it Many a time the head of yonr
church hath not received the ^irit of Christ, for obt SavioiiF teUs u0
in the next words that " the world cannot receire him/' — that is^
men of the world, carnally-minded men, cannot do so; f^nr he is ther
peculiar inheritance of those that are called, sanctified, and do beUeve.
Now, if ever there was any "world" in the world, any of the "world" in
the ^urth, some, many, of your popes have been so; and therefore, by
the testimony of Christ, could not receive the Spirit that he promised
unto his church. Again, it is promised unto the church mystical or
catholic, in the first and ehiefest notion of it, " that all her children
shall be holy, all taught of God ;" and all that are so taught, as our
Saviour informs ui^ " com6 to him" by saving faith. You will not, I
am sure, for shamej afiBrm that this promise hath been made good to»
all, either children or fathers, of yolur churdi^ Innimierable other
promises made ta the catholic church may be instanced in, which
you can no better or otherwise apply unto your church than ooie of
your popes did that of the psalmist to himself, " Thou shalt tread on
the Hon and the basilisk," when he set his foot on the neck of
Frederick the emperor. But the arguments are endless whereby the
vanity of this preience may be disproved. I shall only add, —

Sixthly, That it is contrary to all story, reason, and common sense ;
for it is notorious that far the greatest part of Christians that belong
to the catholk church of Christ, or have done so from the days that
Christianity first entered the world, successively in all ages, never
thought themselves any otherwise concerned in the Boman church
than in any other particular church of name in the world: and is it
*not a madness to exclude them all from being Christians, or belong-
ing to the catholic church, because they belonged not to the Boman?
This I could easily demonstrate throughout all ages of the church
successively. But we need not insist longer on the disproving of
that assertion which impUes a fiat contradiction in the very terms of
it If any church be the catholic, it cannot therefore be the Boman ;
and if it be the Boman properly, it cannot therefore be the cathcAia

2. If you shall say that you mean only that you are a particular
church of Christ, but yet that or such a particidar church as hath
the great privUeges of in/aUibility and universal authority annexed
unto it, which make it of necessity for all men to submit unto it,
and to acquiesce in its determinations, I answer, — (1.) I fear you will
not say so ; you will not, I fear, renounce your claim unto Catholicism.
I have already observed that yourself in particular affirm the Boman
and catholic church to be one and the sama It is not enough for
you* that you belong any way to the church of Christ, but you plead
that none do so but yourselvea (2.) Indeed you do not own your-
selves in this very assertion to be a particular church; your daim of

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TiniverBal authority and jurisdiction^ wbick you still carry along with
you, is inconsistent with any such concession. (3.) To make the best
of it that we can, what ground have you to give us this difference
between the churches of Christ, Uiat coie is faUible, anoAer infallible ;
that one hath power over all the rest; that one dq)ends on Christy,
all the rest on that one? Where is the least intimatioiL given of any
such Uiing in the Scripture f where or by whom is. it expressly as-
serted amongst the cmcient. writers o{ the diurdi? Was diis prindple^
pleaded or once asserted in any of the cmcient covaicilef Some am-
biguous expressions of particular persons, most, of them bishops of
Borne in the declining days of the church, you produce, indeed^ unto
this purpose; but can any rational man think them a sufficient foun-
dation of that stupendous fstbric whidi you endeavour to erect, upon
them? I suppose you will not find any such, persons hasty in their
so domg: those who are already engaged will not be easily recoyered.
For new proselytes imto these principles, you. have small ground to
expect any; unless it be of persons whose lives are either tainted with
sensuality, which they would gladly have a refuge for against the ac-
cusations of their consciences, or whose minds are entan^ed. with
worldly, secular advantages, suited to their couditionsy. tempers, and

Thus I have, with what briefiaess I could, showed you the uncer-
tainty, indeed falseness, of those general principles from which you
educe all your other pleas and reasonings, into which they must be
resolved. And. now, I pray, consider the groundwork you lay for
the bringing of men unto a settlement in the truths and unto the
unity of faith, in opposition to the Scripture, which you reject as in-
sufficient imto this purpose. The sum of it is, eu[i acquiescency in the
proposals and determinations of your church, as to all thii^ that
concern faith and the worship of God; the two main principles that
concur unto it we have apart considered, and have found them every
way insufficient for the end proposed. Neither have they one jot
more of strength when liiey are complicated and blended together,
as they usually are by you, than they have in and of themselves, as
they stand singly on their own bottoms A thousand falsehoods put
t<>gether will be far enough from making one tnitL A multiplicar
tion of them may increase a sophism^ but not add the least weight
or strength to an argument Aa army of crip^des will not. make oi^
sound man. And can you think it reasonable that we dhiould r&-
noimce our sure and firm word of prophecy to attend unto you in this
chase of uncertain conjectures and palpable imtmihs? Suppose this
w^e a way that would bring you and us to an agreement, and. take
away the evil of our diffisrences, I can name you twenty that would
dpjt as. effectually; and they should none of them have any evil in

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them but onty that -which youra also is openly guilty of, — ^namely, l3ie
relinquishmeint of our duty towards <jh>d and care of our own 8onl%
to oome to some peace amongst ourselves in ikis world : whidi would
\)e nothing else but a plain conq>iracy against Jesus Christ, and re-
jection of his authority. At present, I shall say no more but that he
who is led into the truth by so many errors, and is brought unto
establisfamfflit by so many uncertainties, hatii smgnlar success, and
such as no other man ha^ reason to lock for; or he is like Bobert,
duke of Nonoandy, who, when he caused the Saracens to cany him
into Jerusalem, sent word tmto his ^ends in Europe that he was
" carried into beaven on 1^ hsudss of devils.''

It may also, in particular, foe easily made to appear how unsuited
your means of bringing men unto the unity of fidth are unto that
supposition of the present difierenoes in religion between you and us
which you proceed upon; for suppose a man be convinced that
many things taught by your church are false, and contrary to the
mind of God, as you know the case to be between you and us, what
course would you take with him to reduce him unto the unity of
fidth ? Would you tell him that your church cannot err? or would
you endeavoiur to persuade him that the particulars which he in-
stanceth in as errors are not so indeed, but real truths, and neces-
sarily by him to be believed? The former, if you would speak it out
downright and openly, as becometh men who distrust not the truth
of liieir principles (for he that is persuaded of the truth never fears
its strength), would soon appear to be a v^ wise course indeedi
Tou would persuade a man in general thsot you cannot err, whilst he
gives you instances that you have actually erred. Do not think you
have any sophisms -against motion in general that will prevail with
any man to assent unto you whilst he is able to rise and walk to and
fro. Besides, he that is convinced of any thing wherein you err, be«
lieves the opposite unto it to be true ; and that on grounds unto
him sufficiently oogent to require his assent If you couM now per*
suade him that you cannot err, vfhiht he actually believes things to
be true which he knows to be contrary to your determination, what
a sweet condition i^ould you bring hhn into! Can you enaUe him
to believe oantradiotions at the same time ? or, when a man, on
particular grounds and evidences, is come to a settled, firm persua-
oion that any doctrine of your diurdi (suppose that of transubstan-
tiation) is false and contradictory tmto Scripture and right reason,
if you should, abstracting from particulars, in general puzde him
with sophisms and pretences for your church's hxGEdlibility, do you
think it is aa easy thing for him immediately to forego that persua-
sion in particular which his mind, upon cogent, and to him unavoid-
able, grounds and arguments, was possessed withal, without a rational

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removal of those grounds and arguments? Men's belief of things
never pierces deeper into their soids thaa their imagination, who can
take it up and lay it down at their pleasura I am persuaded, there-
fore, .you would take the latter course, and strive to convince him of
his mistakes in the things that he judgeth erroneous in the doctrine
of your church* And what way would you proceed by for his con-
viction? Would you not produce testimonies of Scripture, with
arguments drawn from them, and the suffrage of the Fathers to the
same purpose? Nay, would you not do so, if the error he charge you
withal be that of the authority and infallibility of your church? I
am sure all your controversy-writers of note take this coursa And
do you not see, then, that you are brought, whether you will or no,
unto the use of that way and means for the reducing of men unto
the unity of £uth which you before rejected, which Protestants avow
as sufficient to that purpose!


Proposals from protestant principles tending unto moderadon and unity.

Tou may, from what hath been spoken, perceive how, upon your
own principles, you are utterly disenabled to exercise any true
moderation towards dissenters from you; and that whidi you do so
exercise we are beholding for it, as Cicero said of the honesty of
some of the Epicureans, to the goodness of their nature, which the
illness of their opinions cannot corrupt; neither are you any way
enabled by them to reduce men unto the unity of fidth: so that you
are not more happy in your proposing of good ends unto yourself
than you are unhappy in choosing mediums for the effecting of them.
It may be, for your own skiU, you are able, like Archimedes, to re-
move the earthly ball of our contentions; but you are like him again
that you have nowhere to stand whilst you go about your work
However, we thank you for your good intentions: " In magnis vo-
luisse," is no small commendation. Protestants, on the other side,
you see, are furnished with firm, stable principles and rules in the
pursuit both of moderation and unity; and there are some things in
themselves very practicable, and naturally dedudble from the prin-
ciples of Protestants, wherein the complete exercise of moderation
may be obtained, and a better progress made towards unity than is
likely to be by a rigid contending to impose different principles on
one another; or by impetuous damours of '^ Lo here^ and lo there,^

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which at present most men are taken up withaL Some few of them
I shall name unto you, as a pacific ooronis to the preceding critical

^discourse; and

« 8i quid nofisii reoUnf iaiifl

CaDdidnf imperii; gi non, his ntere mecnm.'* Bar. Ep. i 6^ 68.

And they are these: —

I. Whereas our Saviour hath determined that our happiness con-
sisteth not in the knowing the things of the gospel, but in doing of
them; and seeing that no man can expect any benefit or advantage
firom or by Christ Jesus but only they that yield obedience unto
him, to whom alone he is a ^^ captain of salvation;*' the first thing
wherein all that profess Christianity ought to agree and consent
together is, jointly to obey the commands of Christ, — " to live godly,
righteously, and soberly in this present world,*' following after " holi-
ness, without which no man shall see Ood/' Until we all agree in
this, and make it our business, and fix it as our end, in vam ehall we
attempt to agree in notional and speculative truths; nor would it be
much to our advantage so to do. For as I remember I have told
you before, so I now on this occasion tell you again, it will at the
last day appear that it is all one to any man what party or way in
' Christian religion he hath been of, if he have not personally been
bom again, and, upon mixing the promises of Christ vrith fSuth, have
thereupon yielded obedience unto him unto the end. I confess men
may have many advantages in one way, that they may not have in
another, — ^they may have better means of instruction, and better ex-
amples for imitation: but as to the event, it will be one and the same
with all unbelievers, aU unrighteous and ungodly persons; and men
may be veiy zealous believers in a party who are in the sight of Qod
unbelievers as to the whole design of the gospel This is a principle
wherein, as I take it, aU Christians agree, — namely, that the profes-
sion of Christianity will do no man tiie least good as to his eternal
concernments that lives not up to the power of it; yea^ it will be an
aggravation of his condemnation : and the want hereof is that which
hath lost all the lustre and splendour of the religion taught by Jesus
Christ in the world. Would Christians of all parties make it their
business to retrieve its reputation, wherein also their own bliss and
happiness is involved, by a univeraal obedience unto the precepts of
it, it would insensibly sink a thousand of their differences under
ground. Were this attended unto, the world would quickly say with

admiration, —

« Kagnus ab intogro seclonim naacitiiT ordo:
Jam nora progeniee eodo demittitiir alto." Yirg. EoL ir. 6, 7.

The old, glorious, beautiful face of Christianity would be restored
unto it again; which many deform more and more every day by

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paintmg a dead Gtarca3e iBstead of the living spouae of Chriat Aod
if ever we inteud to t^e one step towards onj agreement or unity,
it must be by fixing this principle in the minds of all i^en, — that it is
of no advantage to any man whatev^ church or way in Christian re-
ligion he be o^ unless he personally believe the promises^ and live in
obedience unto all the precepts of Christ; and that for him who
j^qt^ so, that it is a trampling of tjie whole gospel under fopjb to^say
^t his salvation could be en4angered by ]^ iiot being of ^his or th^
^hurch or way, especially considering how much of the y^orld hath
unmixed itself into all the known ways that ^re in it Wiere this
,onoe well fixed on the minds of men, and did they poetically believe
jthat men shall not be dealt withal at the last 4^ by groifSy a^ of this
or that party or church, but that every individual person must stand
i^n his own bottom, live by his own faith, or perish for want of it,
^ if there had been no other persons in the worid but himself, we
should quickly find their keennesj^ in promoting and contending for
their several parties taken o£^ their beat allayed, and they will begin
^to find their business ai^d ccmcermpi^nt in religion to be utterly
j^mother matter than they thought of For the present, some Pjqtes-
.tants think that when the Bo^nan power is by one means or other
broken, which they expect, that then we ^hall agree and have peace;
.Somanists, on the other mde, look for and desire the extirpation oi
all that they call heresy or heretics, by one way oar other. Some, pre-
tending highly to moders^ion on both sides, especially among the
Protestants, hope that it ijoay be attained by mutual condescension
,pf the parties at variance, contempera^iQ.n of opinions and practices
,unto the present distant apprehensions ^4 interests of the chief
pleaders of either side: what issue and event their desires, hopes, and
^tempts will have, time will show to i^ the world. For my part^
until, by a fresh pouring out of the Spirit of God from on high, I see
•Christians in profession agreeing in pursuing the end of Chnstianity,
endeavouring to be followers of Jesus Christ in a conversation be^
coming the gospel, without trusting to the parties wherein they are
engaged, I shall have very U%i]e hopes to see ^y imity amongst us
that shall be one jot better than our present ^ifier^Qces. To see this,
if any thing, would make me ^y, —

<« mihi tarn longeo maneat para ultima Tit» 1"— ^Yirg. Ed. It. 68.

The present face of Christianity makes the world a wearisome
wilderness; nor should I think any thing a more necessary duty tha^
it would be for persQns of piety and ability to apologize for the reli-
gion of Jesus Christ, and to show how unconcerned it is in the ways
and practices of the most that profess it, and how utterly another
thing it is firom what in the world it is represented to be, — so to put

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a stop unto that atheism whidi is brealuDg in upon us from the con-
tempt that men have of that idea of Christian religion which they
have taken from Uie manner of its profession and lives of its pro-
fessors, — were it not that I suppose it more immediately incumbeitt
on them and us all to do the same work in a rei^ expression of its
power and excellency, in such a kind of goodness, holiness, righteous-
ness, and heavenliness of ccmversation, as iiie world is only as yet in
secret acquainted withal When this is done, the way for a farther
agreement will be open and facile; and until it be 90, men will
%}it on,—

— - " Ipsiqne, nepotesqne
Et nati natpnim, et qui nascentur ab Oils*/'

we shall have no end of our quarrels. Could I see a heroic temper
fall on the minds of men of the several parties at variance, to Idid
adieu to the world, its customs, maimers, and fashions, which are all
vain and perishing, — ^not in a local, corporeal retirement from the mexi
and lawful businesses of it, or a relinquishm^it of the necessary call-
ings and employments in it, but in their spirits and afifections; could
I see them takmg up the cross of Christ, — not on their backs in its
figure, but on their hearts in its power, — and in their whole convert
sation conforming themselves unto his blessed example, so teaching
all others of their parties what it is that they build upon for a blessed
eternity, that they may not please and deceive themselves with their
conceited orthodoxy in the trifling differences which they have with
other Christians; I should hope the very name of persecution, and
every thing tiiat is contrary to Christian moderation, would quickly
be driven out of Christendom, and that error, and whatever is con-

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 38 of 67)