Andrew Thomson John Owen.

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whithersoever it shall please to guide us, we ought quickly to return
to our duty and task, if we should make any elopemait from it It
is not meet that those that are bom mules to bondage should ever
alter their condition. Only, we must profess we know not the
springs of that unhappy fiette which should render us sudk animals.
Unto what is here pretended I only ask, Whether this right of
presidency and rule in the Roman church, over all persons and '
churches pretended of old to be converted by her means, do belong
unto her by virtue of any general right, that ^ose who> convert others
should for ever have the conduct of those converted by them, or by
virtue of some special privilege granted to the diurch of Rome above
others? If the first or general title be insisted on, it is most certain
that a very small pittance of jurisdiction will be left unto the Roman
see, in comparison of that vast empire which now it hath or layeth
claim unto, knowing no bounds but those of the universal nature of
things here below. For all men know that the gospel was preached
in very many places of the world before its sound reached unto Rome,
and in most parts of the then known world before any such planting
of a church at Rome as might be the foundation of any authoritative
mission of any fix>m thence for the conversion of others; and after



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S4l AKIMAinmSIOIIS on A TREATISE

th»i a dnirch ^afl plaBied m th^ city, &r any tfaing thdt may be
made to appear by stoary, it was, as to the fitst edition of Cfanstiaiiity
in the Boman emf^ra, ae little seirvioeable in the propagation of the
gospel as any other chtnt^h of name in the iforld: so that, if sadi
pnncapleB should be pleaded as of general equity, there ootild be
nothing fixed on more destmctiTe to the Bomamsts' pretences. If
they hare any special privilege to found this claim upon, they may
do well to produce it In the Scripture, though there be of many
believers, yet there is no mention niade of any church at Rome, bat
only €£ that little assembly that used to meet at Aquila's house^
Bom. XTL 5. Of any such privily annexed unto that meeting we
find nothing. The first general council, confirming power and rule
over others in some churches, acknowledges, indeed, more to have
been pfaotised in the Boman diurch than I know how they could
prove to be due imto it; but yet that very unwarrantable grant ia
utterly destructive to the pres^it claim and condition of the pope
and diturch of Borne* The wings now pretended to be like those of
the spn, extending themsdves at once to the ends of the earth, were
then accounted no lox^r than to be able to cover the poor believers
in the city and suburiM of it^ and some few adjacent towns and vit
lages. It would be a long story to tell the progress of this claim in
after times: it is suffidafitly done in some of those books of which
our author says there are enough to fill the Tower of London ; where,
I presume, or into the fire, he could be contented they should be for
ever disposed of: and therefore we may dismiss this principle also.

III. That which is the main pillar, bearing the weight of all this
fine fabric, is the principle we mentioned in the third place, — ^namely,
^^ That the Boman profession of religion and practice in the worship
of Ood are every way the same as when we first received the gospel
from the pope; nor can they ever otherwise be.''

This is taken for granted by our author throughout his discourse.
And the truth is, that if a man hath a mind to suppose and make
use of things that are in question between him and his adversary, it
were a folly not to presume on so much as should assuredly serve his
turn. To what purpose is it to mince the matter, and ^ve oppcartunity
to new cavilrf and exceptions, by baby-mealy-mouthed petitions of
some small things that there is a strife about, when a man may as
honestly, all at onee, suppose the whole truth of his side, and proceed
without fear of disturbance? And so wisely deals our author in this
businesB. That which ought to have been his whole work, he takes for
granted to be already done! If this be granted him, he is safe; deny
it, and all his fine oration dwindles into a little sapless sophistry.
But be must get the great number of books that he seems to be
troubled with out of the uroM, and the Scripture to boot^ before he



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EHtTTLXiy HAT LCX 20

will penoadd oQii«idei»te and to^r^iidioed men that theone is a word
of trudi in tiiis supposition. That ve in tEeee nations reoeired not
the gospel originally from the pope (which, p. 354^ oor author tells ns
^ id his, purely his,'' wfa^^eas we thought bcdfore it had been Christ's)
hath been declared, and diall, if need be, be farther evinced. But
let us suppose once again that we did so; yet we cooistantly deny the
church of Rome to be the same, in dootrinei worship, and discipline,
that she was when it is pretended that by her means we were insti-
tuted in the knowledge of trutL Our author knows fiill well what
a facile work I have now lying in view,~what an easy thing it were
to go over most of the opinions of the present churdi of Borne, and
most if not all their [oactices in worship, and to manifest their vast
distance from the doctrine, practice, and principles of that church of
old. But though this were really a more serious work, and more
useful, and much more accommodated to the nature of the whole dif-
ference between us, more easy and pleasant to myself than the pursuit
of this odd rambling chase that, by following of him, I am engaged
in ; yet, lest he should pretend that this would be a diveraon into ccon*
man-places, such as he hath purposely avoided (and that not unwisely,
that he might have advantage all alcmg to take for granted that
whidi he knew to be principally in question between us), I shall dis-
miss that business, and oidy attend unto that great proof of this
assertion which lumself thought meet to shut up his book withal, as
that which was fit to pin down the basket, and to keep close and safe
all the long-billed birds that he hoped to lime-twig by his [Mreceding
rhetoric and so{^istry. It is in pp. 362, 363* Though I hope I am not
contentious, nor have any other hatred against Popery than what be-
comes an honest man to have against that which he is persuaded to be
so ill as Popery must needs be, if it be ill at all; yet, upon his request,
I have seriou^y pondered his queries (a captious way of disputing),
and, ialling now in my way, do return this answer unto them: —

The supposition on which all his ensuing queries are founded
must be rightly stated, its terms freed from ambiguity, and the whole
from equivocation ; — ^which a word or two, unto, first, the subject; and
then, secondly, the predicate of tJbe fNX)position, or what is Attributed
unto the subject spoken of; and, thirdly, the proof of the whole, will
suffice to do. The thesis laid down is this: '* The church of Borne
was once a most pure, excellent, flourishing, and mother church ; this
good St Paul amply testifies in his epistle to them, and is acknow-
ledged by Protestanta" The subject is, " The church of Rome;'' and
this may be taken either for the church that was founded in Borne
in the apostles' days, consisting of believes, with those that had their
rule and oversight in the Lord; or it may be taken for the church of
Rome in the sense of latter ages, consisting of the pope its head, and



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26 ANIMADVEBSIONS ON A TBEATISE

cardinals, principal members, with all the jurisdiction dependent on
them, and way of worship established by them and their authority;
or that collection of men throughout the world that yield obedience
to the pope in their several places and subordinations, according to
the rules by him and his authority given unto them. That which is
attributed to this church is, " That it was once a most pure, excel-
lent, flourishing, and mother church;'' aU, it seems, in the superlative
degree. I will not contend about the purity, excellence, or flourish-
ing of that churcL The boasting of the superlativeness of that purity
and excellency seems to be borrowed from that of Rev. iiL 1 5-1 7. But
we shall not exagitate that in that church which it would never have
affirmed of itself, because it is fieJlen out to be the interest of some
men in these latter days to talk at such a rate as primitive humiUty
was an utter stranger unto. I somewhat guess at what he means by
a mother church; for though the Scripture knows no such thing, but
only appropriates that title to " Jerusisdem that was above," which is
said to be the " mother of us all," GaL iv. 26, — ^which, I suppose, is
not Rome (and I also think that no man can have two mothers), nor
did purer antiquity ever dream of any such mother, — ^yet the vogue of
latter days hath made this expression not only passable in the world,
but sacred and unquestionable. I shall only say, that in the sense
wherein it is by some understood, the old Roman church could lay
no more claim unto it than most other churches in the world, and
not so good as some others could

. The proof of this assertion lies first on the testimony of St Paul,
and then on the acknowledgment of Protestants. First, " Good St
Paul," he says, " amply testifies this in his Epistle to the Romana"
This? What, I pray? — ^that the then Roman church was a mother
church ? Not a word in all the epistle of any such matter. Nay, as I
observed before, though he greatly commends the fiedth and holiness
of many believers, Jews and Gentiles, that were at Rome, yet he
makes mention of no church there, but only of a little assembly that
used to meet at Aquila's house; nor doth St Paul give any testimony
at all to the Roman church in the latter sense of that expression. Is
there any thing in his epistle of the pope, cardinals, patriarchs, etc.?
any thing of their power and rule over other churches, or Christians
not living at Rome? Is there any one word in that epistle about that
which the Papists make the principal ingredient in their definition of
the church, — namely, subjection to the pope? What, then, is the
" this" that good St Paul so amply testifies unto in his Epistle to
the Romans? Why this, and this only, that when he wrote this
epistle to Rome, there were then living in that city sundry good and
holy men, believing in Christ Jesus according to the gospel, and
making profession of the faith that is in him; but that these men



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. • 27

diould live there to the end of the world, he says not, nor do we find
that they do. The acknowledgment of Protestants is mext, to as little
purpose, insisted on. They acknowledge a pure and flourishing church
to have been once at Borne, as they maintain there was at Jerusalem,
Antioch, Ephesus, Smyrna^ Laodicea, Alexandria^ Babylon, eta That
in all these places such churches do still continue, they deny, and
particularly at Borne. For that church which then was, they deny
it to be the same that now is; at least, any more than Argo was the
same ship as when first built, after there was not one plao^ or pin of
its first structure remaining. That the church of Bome, in the latter
sense, was ever a pure, flourishing church, never any Protestant ac-
knowledged. The most of them deny it ever to have been, in that
sense, any church at all; and those that grant it to retain the essen-
tial constituting principles of a church, yet aver that as it is, so it
ever was, since it had a being, very far from a pure and flourishing
church. For aught, then, that I can perceive, we are not at all con-
cerned in the following queries; the supposition they are all built
upon being partly sophistical and partly fedsa But yet, because he
doth so earnestly request us to ponder them, we shall not give him
cause to complain of us, in this particular at least (as he doth in ge-
neral of all Protestants), that we deal uncivilly, and therefore shall
pass through them; after which, if he pleaseth, he may deliver them
to his friend of whom they were borrowed.

First, saith he, '' This church could not cease to be such, but she
must ML either by apostasy, heresy, or schism.'" But who told him
so ? Might she not cease to be, and so consequently to be such ?
Might not the persons of whom it consisted have been destroyed by
an earthquake, as it happened to Laodicea ? or by the sword, as it
befell the church of the Jews? or twenty other ways? Besides, might
she not fall by idolatry, or &lse worship, or by profaneness, or licen-
tiousness of conversation, contrary to the whole riile of Christ ? That,
then, he may know what is to be removed by his queries, if he -should
speak any thing to the purpose, he may do well to take notice that
tliis is the dogma of Protestants concerning the church of Bome : That
the church planted there pure, did by degrees, in a long tract of
time, fisJl, by apostasy, idolatry, heresy, schism, and profEineness of
life, into that condition wherein now it ia But, says he, —

1. " Not by apostasy; for that is not only a renouncing of the
faith of Christ, but the very name and title of Christianity ; and no
man will say tliat the church of Bome had ever such a fall, or fell
thua" I tell you truly, sir, your church is very much beholden unto
men, if they do not sometimes say very hard things of her fall. Had
it been an ordinary slip or so, it might have been passed over; but
this fsdling into the mire, and wallowing in it for so many ages, a»



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28 ANIMA0VB&SIOKB ON A TB£ATISE

fihe hafi done, is in truth a very msaghtj bnainess. For my part, I
am resolved to deal aa gently with her as possible; and therefore say,
that there is a total apostasy from Christianity, which she feU not into
or by; and there is a partial apostasy in Chrktianity from some of the
principles of it, saoh aa St Paul chained on the Qalatians, and the old
fathers on very many that yet retained the name and title of Chris*
tians; and this we say plainly that she fell by, — she Ml by apostasy
frommany of the most material principles of theg08pe1,both astofaith,
life, and worship. And there being no reply made upon Ais instance,
were it not upon the ground of pure civility, we need not proceed any
farther with his queries, the business of them being come to an end.
2. But, upon his entreaty, we will follow him a little fiuther.
Supposing that he hath dispatched the business of apostasy, he comes
to heresy, and tells us, '* That it is an adhesion to some private or
singular opinion or error in £Edth, contrary to the general approved
doctrine of the chiffck'* That which ought to be subsumed is, that
the church of Eome did never adhere to any singular opinion or
error in faith, contrary to the general approved doctrine of the
churdi; but our author, to cover his business, changes the terms in
his proceeding into the Christian world To dear this to us a little, I
desire to know of him what church he means, when he speaks of the
approved doctrine of the church ? I am sure he will say, " The Boman
Catholic churck'' And if I ask him, what age it is of that church
which he intends ? he will also say, ''That age which is present when
the opinions munitioned are asserted contrary to the approved doc-
trine/' We have, then, obtained his meaning, — ^namely. The Rwnan
church did never at any time adhere to any opinion, but what the
Boman church at that time adhered unto; or taught or approved
no other doctrine but what it taught and approved ! Now, I verily
believe this to be true, and he must be somewhat besides uncivil that
shall deny it But from hence to infer that the Boman church
never fell from her first purity by heresy, — ^that is a thing I cannot yet
discern how it may be made good. This conclusion ariseth out of
that pitiful definition of heresy he gives us, coined merely to serve
the Boman interest The rule of judging heresy is made the '' ap-
proved doctrine of the church." I would know of what church : of this
or that particular church, or of the Catholic? Doubtless the Catholic
-must be pretended. I ask. Of this or that age, or of the first? " Of
the first, certainly." I desire then to know how we may come to
discern infisdlibly what was the approved doctrine of the Catholic
church of old but only by the Scriptures, which we know it imani-
mously embraced, as given unto it by Christ for its rule of faith and
worship. If we should then grant that the approved doctrine of the
church were that, which a departiure from, as such, gives formality



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KnriXED FIAT X^TX 20

QBto lieresyi yet there is no Tray to know that doctrine but by the
Scriptnra But yet neither can or ou^ this to be granted. The
foimal reason oi heresy, in the iisual acceptation of the word, ariseth
from its deviation from the Scripture as such; which is the rule of the
church's doctrine, and of tiie c^nnions that are contrary imto it. N(»r
yet is every private or singular o^union, contrary to the Scripture cht
the doctrine of the church, presently a heresy. That is not tiie sense
of the word, either in Scripture or antiquity; so that the foundation
of the queries about heresy is not one jot better laid than that was
about apostasy, which went befora This is that which I have heard
Protestants say, — namely, ^* That the church of Rome doth adhere to
very many opinions and arors in &ith, contrary to the main princi-
ples of Christian religion ddivered in the Scripture, and so, oouBe-
quentiy, the doctrine approved by the catholic church;'' and if this
be to lall by heresy, I add, that she is thus fallen also from what she
waa But Uien he asks^ — (1.) " By what general council was she ever
oondemned ?" (2.) ** Which of the fikthers ever wrote against her ?
By what autb<mty was she otherwise rejuroved?" But this is all
one as if a thief, arraigned for stealing before a judge, and the goods
that he had stolen found upon him, should plead for himself, and say,
** If ever I stole any thing, then by what lawful judge was I ever con«-
demned ? What officer of the peace did ever formally apprehend
me ? By what authcnrity were writs issued out against me ?" Were
it not easy for the judge to reply, and tell him, '^ Friend, these allega-
tions may prove that you were never before condemned, but they
prove iK>t at all that you never stole; which is a matter of fact that
you are now upon your trial for/' No more will it at all follow that
the church of Borne did never ofifend, because she is not condemned.
These tilings may be necessary that she may be said to be legally
convicted, but not at all to prove that she is really guilty. Besides,
the truth is, that many of her doctrines and practices are condemned
by general councils, and most of them by the most learned fathers^
and all of them by the authority of the Scriptura And whikt her
doctrine and worship are so condemned, I see not we}l how she can
escape; so that this second way also she is fallen.

3. To apostasy and heresy she hath also added th^ guilt of schism
in a high d^ee. For schisms within herself^ and her gieat schism
from all the Christian worid besides herself are things well known
to all that know her. Her intestine schisms weie tiie shame of
Christendom, her schisms in respect ot others the ruin of it And
briefly to answer the triple query we are so eamestiy invited to the
consideration at*, I shall need to instance only in that one particular
of making subjection to the pope in all things the *' tessera" and
rule of all church communion, whereby she hath left tlie company of



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30 ANIMAiyyEBSlONS ON A TBEATISE

all the chiirclies of Christ in the world besides herself, is gone forth
and departed from all apostolical churches, even that of old Rome
itself; and the true church, which she hath forsaken, abides and is
preserved in all the societies-of Christians throughout the earth, who,
attending to the Scripture for their only rule and guide, do believe
what is therein revealed, and worship Qod accordingly. So that,
notwithstanding any thing here offered to the contrary, it is very
possible that the present chiurch of Rome may be fallen from her
primitive condition by apostasy, heresy, and schism, — which indeed she
is; and worst of all, by idolatry, which our author thought meet to
pass over in silence.

IV. It is frequently pleaded by our author (nor is there any thing
which he more triumphs in), " That all things, as to religion, were
quiet and in peace, all men in union and agreement amongst them-
jselves in the worship of God, before the departure made by our
forefathers from the Roman see.'^ No man that hath once cast an
eye upon the defensatives written by the ancient Christians, but
knows how this very consideration was managed and improved against
them by their Pagan impugners. That Christians, by their intro-
duction of a new way of worshipping God, which their fore&thers
knew not, had disturbed the peace of human society, divided the
world into seditious factions, broken all the ancient bonds of peace
and amity, dissolved the whole harmony of mankind's agreement
amongst themselves, was the subject of the declamations of their
adversaries. This complaint, their books, their schools, the courts
and judicatories were filled with; against all which clamours and
violences that were stirred up against them by their means, those
blessed souls armed themselves with patience, and the testimony of
their consciences that they neither did nor practised any thing that
in its own nature had a tendency to the least of those evils which
they and their way of worshipping God were reproached with. As
they had the opportunity, indeed, they let their adversaries know
that that peace and union they boasted of in their religion, before
the entrance of Christianity, was but a conspiracy against God, a
consent in error and falsehood, and brought upon the world by the
craft of Satan, maintained through the effectual influence of innu-
merable prejudices upon the innate blindness and darkness of their
hearts. That upon the appearance of light, and pubUshing of the
truth, divisions, animosities, troubles, and distractions did arise, they
declared to have been no proper or necessary effect of the work, but
a consequent, occasional and accidental, arising from the lusts of
men, " who loved darkness more than light, because their works were
evil;" which, that it would ensue, their blessed Master had long
before foretold them, and forewarned them.



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. ^

Though this be enough, yet it is not ail that may be replied unto
this old pretence and plea^ as managed to the purpose of our adver-
saries. It is part of the motive which the great historian makes
Galgacus, the valiant Briton, use to his countrymen to cast off the
Koman yoke: " Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem adpellant'^ It was
their way, when they had by force and cruelty laid all waste before
them, to call the remaining solitude and desolation by the goodly
name of peace; neither considered they whether the residue of men
had either satisfaction in their minds or advantage by their rule.
Nor was the peace of the Roman church any other before the Befor-
mation. What waste they had, by sword and burnings, made in
several parts of Europe, in almost all the chiefest nations of it, of
mankind; what desolation they had brought by violence upon those
who opposed their rule or questioned their doctrine, the blood of in-
numemble poor men, many of them learned, all pious and zealous, —
whom they called Waldenses, Albigenses, Lollards, Wickliffites, Hus-
sites, Calixtines, Subutraquians, Picards, or what else they pleased
(being indeed the faithful witnesses of the Lord Christ and his truths),
— will at the last day reveal Besides, the event declared how remote
the minds of millions were from an acquiescency in that conspiracy in
the papal sovereignty, which was grown to be the bond of communion
amongst those who called themselves the church, or an approbation
of that doctrine and worship which they made profession of: for no
sooner was a door of liberty and light opened ynto them, but whole na-
tions were at strife who should first enter in at it ; which, undoubtedly,
all the nations of Europe had long since done, had not the holy, wise
God, in his good providence, suffered in some of them a sword of
power and violence to interpose itself against their entrance. For,
whatever may be pretended of peace and agreement to this day, take



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 4 of 67)