Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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long at their prayers, many of them constantly an hour together in
the morning, and half an hour he that is least And, ' My house,' said
God, ' is the house of prayer:' but our churches are either shut up all
the week, or, if they be open, are wholly taken up with boys shout-
ing, running, and gamboling all about On Sundays, indeed, our
people sit quiet, and decently dressed, but to bow the knee is quite
out of fieishion; and if any one chance to do it, as it is rare to behold,
so he is very nimble at it, and as soon up as down, as if he made a
courtfihip with his knees, and only tried if his nerves and sinews were
{^ good to bow as to stand upright And our whole religious work here

is to sit quietly whilst the minister speaks upon a text, and

that we spend all our days, ever learning and teaching," eta If this
discourse must be esteemed text, I pray tell me whose it is, yours or
mine; or whether it doth not contain a comparison between the
devotion of your Catholics and Protestants; and whether that of
the former be not preferred above the other: and when you have
done so, pray also tell me whether you suppose it an honest and
candid way of handling matters of thiB importance, or, indeed, of any
sort whatever, for a man to say and unsay at his pleasure according
unto what he apprehends to be for his present advantage; and whether
a man may believe you that you so accurately pondered the words
of your " Fiat" as you seem to pretend, seeing you dare not abide
by what you have written, but disclaim it And yet I confess this
may fall out, if your design in the weighing of your words was so to
place them as to deceive us by them ; which, indeed, it seems to have
been. But it is your unhappiness that your words ai*e brought unto
other men's scales after they had so fairly passed your own. For the
devotion itself (by the way) of Catholics, which you here paint forth
unto us, it looks very suspiciously to be painted. The piety of your
churches, wherein they exceed ours, I confess I understand not; and
your people's frequenting public places to perform their private devo-
tions leans much to the old Pharisaism, which our Saviour himself
hath branded to all eternity for hypocritical, and carried on with little
attendance unto his precept of niaking the closet, and that with the
door shut upon the devotionists, the most proper seat of private sup-
plicationa Besides, if their prayers consist, as for the most part they
do, in going over by tale a set number of sayings which they little
understand, you may do well to commend your devotion to them that
understand not one word of gospel, for those that do will not attend
unto it And so I have once more passed through the principles of
your work, with a fresh discussion of some of them, — ^which I tell you
again I suppose sufficient to satisfy judicious and ingenuous persons
in the sophistry and inconclusiveness of the whole; my farther pro-

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oedure being intended for the satisfaction of yourself and such others
as have imbibed the prejudices which you endeavour to forestall your
minds withal, and thereby have given no small impeachment unto
your judgment and ingenuity.


Judicious readers— Schoolmen the forgers of Popery— Nature of the discourse in

"Fiat Lux."

Your ensuing discourses are such as might well be passed by, as
containing nothing serious or worth a review.
** An pasflim sequerer oorram V*

Ludicrous similitudes, with trifling exceptions to some words in the
"Animadversions," cut oflf from that coherence wherein they are
placed, are the chief ingredients of it With these you aim, with
your wonted success^ to make sport :-«

" Venite in ignem

Pleni nuis et infioetiarum
Annalee Yolnflt."

I wish we had agreed beforehand,

** Ut faoeres tu quod Tellee; nee non ego possem,
Indulgere mihi,"

that I might have been fr'eed from the consideration of such trifles :
as the case stands, I shall make my passage through them with what
speed I can.

First, You except against the close of the consideration of your
principles, namely, " That I would do so to my book also, if I had
none to deal with but ingenuous and judicious readers;" and tell
me, " that it seems what follows is for readers neither judicious nor
ingenuous." But why so, I pray? That which is written for the
information of them who want either judgment or ingenuity, may be
also written for their use who have both. Neither did I speak abso-
lutely of them that were ingenuous and judicious, but added also,
that they were such as had an acquaintance with the state of reli-
gion of old and at this day in Europe, with the concernment of their
own souls in these thinga With such as these, I supposed then, and
do still, that a discovery of the sophistry of your discourse, and the
felseness of the principles you proceeded on, was suflScient to give
them satisfaction as to the usefulness of the whole, without a psurti-
cular ventilating of the flourishes that you made upon your sandy

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fiKi]idatioii& But beoauae I know there were some that might, hj
the oommendatioii of your friends^ light upon your diaooiUBe, that
either, being prepoesesaed by prejndicea, might want the ingeDuity to
examine particularly your assertions and inferences, or, through un-
acquaintcKlness with the stories of some things that you referred unto,
might be disenabled to make a right judgment of what you av^ed,
I was willing to take some farther pains also for your satisfaction;
and what was herein done or spoken amiss, as yet I cannot discern.
But I am persuAded that if you had not supposed that you had some
of little judgment and less ingenuity to give satisfaction unto, you
would never have pleased yourself with the writing of such empty
trifles in a business wherein you pretend so great a concernment

Page 31. You observe that I say, '* The schoolmen were the ham-
merers and foigers of Popery;" and add, ** Alas, sir, I see that anger
spoils your memory: for in the 11th and 12th chapters you make
Popery to be hammered and forged not a few hundreds of years be-
fore any schoolmen were extant; and therefore tell me that I hate
the schoolmen as the Frendmien do Talbot, for having been frightened
with them formerly, — -

* Sed risa inepto res inepdor ntiSa est'"

I confess the language of your schoolmen is so corrupt and bar-
barous, — many of the things they sweat about so vain, curious, un-
profitable, — their way of handling things, and expressing the notions
of their minds, so perplexed, dark, obscure, and oftentimes unintelli-
gible,— divers of their assertions and suppositions so horrid and mon-
strous, — ^the whole system of their pretended divinity so alien and
foreign imto the mystery of the gospel, — that I know no great reason
that any man hath much to delight in them. These things have
made them the sport and scorn of the leamedest men that ever lived
in the oommunion of your own church. What one said of old of
others may be well applied unto them: —

«< SUittim iMnmnt omnipotentis Dei

CsluBiDioeis UtUnu.
Fidem minutis diaaecant ambsgibus

Ut quisque est lingua noquior.
Solnint Kgant<)tie qusestionum vincula

Per SjUogismM pleetOei.*'

Indeed, to see them come forth harnessed with syllogisms and so-
phibms; attended with obs and sols; speaking part the language of
the Jews, and part the language of Ashdod; fighting and contending
among themselves as if they had sprung from the teeth of Cadmus'
serpent; subjecting all tlie properties, decrees, and actions of the
holy God to their pro&ne babblings^ — might perhaps beget some fear

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in the minds of men not much guilty of want of constant, m the
gight of the harpies did of old to iEn^as and his companions^ of
whom they gave that account, —

•* Tristios liaud ilUs monstmm, nee BSdTior ntla
P^sUb ci ink Deum Stjgiis seee eitvlit «iidi&
Yidimiu, e( sabita g^dus fomidiiw Magnls
Dirigait; oecidepe animL" YiiK. Mil UL 2H 26S.

Bat the troth is, there is no real cause of fear of them: they are not
like to do mischief to any, unless they are resolved aforehand to give
up their faith in the things of Qod to the authority of this or that
philosopher, and for^ all solid, rational constderation of things, to
betake themselves to sophistical canting, and the winding up of sub*
tilty into plain nonsense, — ^which oftentimes be&lls the beet of them;
whence Melchior Canus, one of yourselves, says of some of your
learned disputes^ " Puderet me dicere non inteUigere, si ipsi intelli-
gerent qui tract&rant;" — '' I should be ashamed to say I did not un«
derstand them, but that they understood not themselves." Others
may be entangled by them, who, if they cannot untie your knots,
may break your webs, eq)ecially when they find the conclusions,
as oftentimes they are, directly contrary to Scripture, right reason,
and natural sense itself For they are the genuine offspring of the
old sophisters whom Lucian talks of in his ^ Menippus," or HtxtM/Mcp*
rs/a, and tells us that, in hearing the disputations, Ti vdrrm i$tvu9
drMruiTaroVy In «-f^/ ratv irnvriurdrm tnufrrog ahfiif Xf7»», €f66fa viHwrmi

fi^Tt rf '^v^lvy ayr/Xiys/y s%f/y, xa/ ravra, ild^a Mfti^ itg oOx it «'on
^tp/i6v ti i7jj xai 4*'X^^^ ^^ ravrf^ XP^^V' — " That," saith he, ** which
seemed the most absurd of all was, that when they disputed of things
absolutely contrary, they yet brought invincible and persuasive rea-
sons to prove what they said; so that I durst not speak a word against
him that affirmed hot and cold to be the sscme, although I knew well
enough that the same thing could not be hot and cold at the same
tima" And therefore he tells us, that in 'hearing of them he did,
like a man half asleep, sometimes nod one way and sometimes an-
other; which is certainly the deportment of the generality of them
who are conversant in the wrangles of your schoolmen. But what-
ever I said of them or your church is perfectly consistent with itself
and the troth. I grant that before the schoolmen set forth in the
world, many unsound opinions were broached in, and many supersti-
tious practices admitted into your church, and a great pretence raised
unto a superintendency over other churches; which were parts of that
mass out of whidi your Taperj is formed : but before the schoolmen
took it in hand, it was ''rodis indigestaque moles," — a heap, not a
house. As Rabbi Juda Hakkadosh gathered the passant traditions

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of his own time among the Jews into a body or system, which is
called the " Mishna," or duplicate of their law, — ^wherein he composed
a new religion for them, sufficiently distant from that which was pro-
fessed by their fore&thers, — so have your schoolmen done also. Out
of the passant traditions of the days wherein they lived, blended with
sophistical, corrupted notions of their own, countenanced and gilded
with the sayiugs of some ancient writers of the church, for the most
part wrested or misunderstood, they have hammered out that system
of philosophical'traditional divinity which is now eustamped with
the authority of the Tridentine council; being as far distant from the
divinity of the New Testament as the farrago of traditions collected by
Eabbi Juda, and improved in the Talmuds, is from that of the Old.
Pages 33-35. Having nothing else to say, you &11 again upon my
pretended mistake of considering that as " spoken absolutely by you
which you spake only upon supposition;" and talk of " metaphysical
speculations in your ' Fiat,' which you conceive me very unmeet to
deal withal; and direct me to Bellarmine's catechism, as better suit-
ing my inclination and capacity." But, sir, we are not wont here in
England to account cloudy, dark, sophistical declamations, to be
metaphysical speculations; nor every feigned supposition to be a
philosophical abstraction. I wish you would be persuaded that there
is not the least tincture of any solid metaphysics in your whole dis-
course. It may be, indeed, you would be angry with them that
should undeceive you, and cry out, —

" Pol, me oocidistis, amid,

as he did, —

M Cm demptoB per Tim mentis gratiasimos error."

You may perhaps please yourself with conceits of your metaphysical
achievements; but your friends cannot but pity you to see your
vanity. The least youth in our universities will tell you, that to
make a general supposition, true or false, and to flourish upon it with
words of a seeming probability, without any cogency or proof, belongs
to rhetoric, and not at all to metaphysics; and this is the very
nature of your discourse. Nor do I mistake your aim in it, as you
pretend. I grant in the place you would be thought to reply unto,
though you speak not one word to the purpose, that your inquiry is
after a means of settling men in the truth, upon supposition that
they are not yet attained thereunto; and you labour to show the
difficulty that there is in that attainment, upon the account of the
insufficiency of many mediums that may be pretended to be used for
that end. In answer unto your inquiry, I tell you directly, that the
only means of settling men in the truth of religion is divine revela-
tion, and that this revelation is entirely and perfectly contcdned in

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the Scripture; which, therefore, is a sufficient means of settling all
men in the truth. Suppose them ^'rasse tabulse;'' suppose them
utterly ignorant of truth; suppose them prejudiced against it; suppose
them divided amongst themselves about it; — ^the only safe, rational,
secure way of bringing them all to settlement is their belief of the
revelation of God contained in the Scriptura This I manifested
unto you in the " Animadversions;" whereunto you reply by a com-
mendation of your own metaphysical abilities, with the excellencies
of your discourse, without taking the least notice of my answer, or
the reasons given you against that fanatical, groundless '' credo "
which you would now again impose upon us.


False suppositions, causing false and absurd consequences — Whence we had the
gospel in England, and by whose means — What is our dutj in reference
unto them by whom we receive the gospel

Page 36. Ton insist upon somewhat in particular that looks to*
wards your purpose, which shall therefore be discussed ; for I shall not
willingly miss any opportunity that you will afford me of examin-
ing whatever you have to tender in the behalf of your dying cause.
You mind me, therefore, of my answer unto that discourse of yours,
'' If the Papist or Roman Catholic, who first brought us the news of
Christianity, be now become so odious, then may likewise the whole
story of Cbistianity be thought a romance. You speak with the
like extravagancy, and mind not my hypothetics at all, to speak
directly to my inference, as it becomes a man of art to do ; but, neglect-
ing my consequence, which in that discourse is principally and solely
intended, you seem to deny my supposition, which, if my discourse
had been drawn into a syllogism, would have been the minor of it
And it consists of two categories, — First, That the Papist is now
become odious; secondly. That the Papist delivered us the first news
of Christianity. The first of tliese you little heed; the second you
deny. * That the Papist,' say you, ' or Roman Catholic, first brought
Chnst and his Christianity into this land, is most untrue. I won-
der,' eta And your reason is, ' Because if any Romans came hither,
they were not Papists; and indeed our Christianity came from the
east' And this is all you say to my hypothetic, or conditional ratio-
cination, as if I had said nothing at sdl but that one absolute cate-
gory, which, being delivered before, I now only suppose. You used
to call me a civil logician^ but I fear a natural one, as you are, will

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9t8 A yiNDicATnm or thi aioxabtbbsionb oir fut lux.

Ikardly be abb to jnttify this noticHi of jonra as artificiaL A oondi-
tional hath a venty of iU awn, to bi differmg from the supposed
efttogory, that tliis being fUae, that may yet be tnia For example,
if 1 3b€Hild flay thus, / ▲ man who hath wings a« an eagle, or if a man
had^the wings of an eagle, he might fly in ^e ahr as well as another
hird;' and such an asaertion is not to be oonfiited by proving that a
man hath not tiie wings of an eagla^'

The substance of this whole discourse is no more but ihis^ Thai
because the inference upon a supposition may be a comseqnenoe
logically true, though the supposition be &lae or feigned, therefore
the consequent, or thing inferred, also is really true, and a man
must fly in the air, as you say, " like another bird." But, sir, though
every consequence be true logically, — that is, lawfully inferred from
its premises, be they true or false, and so must in disputation be
allowed, — ^yet, where the consequent is the thing in question, to sup-
pose that if the consequence be lawfully educed from the premises,
that it also must be true, is a fond surmise. And therefore they
know " qui nondum sere laventur," that the way to disappoint the
conclusion of an hypothetic syllogism is to disprove the category in-
cluded in the supposition, when reduced into an assumption from
whence it is to be inferred. For instance, if the thing in question
be, Whether a man can fly in the air, as you say, " like another bird,"
and to prove it, you sfaodd say, ^ If he has wings he can do so;'' the
way, I think, to stop your progress is to deny that he hath wings;
and if you should continue to wrangle that your inference is good,
^ If he hath wings he may fly like another bird," you would but make
yourself ridioubua But if you may be allowed to make false and
absurd suppositions, and must have them taken for gmnted, you are
very much to blame if you infer not conclusions tmto your own pur-
pose. And this in general is your constant way of dealing. Unless
we will allow you to suppose yourselves to be the diurch, and that
all the exoellent things which are spoken of the church belong unto
you alone, with the like groundless presumptions, you are instantly
mute, as if there had appeared unto you

** Hftrpoorates digito qui significat St." >

But if, in the case in agitation between u% I should permit you withr
out control to make what suppositions you please, and to make
inferenoes from them which must be admitted for truth because
logically following upon your suppositions, what man of art I might
have appeared unto you I know not; I fear with others I should
scarcely have preserved the reputation of common sense or under^

' Ood of sflenoe ; ^ommoiilj represented with his finger on bis mouth, as if hualiiJig
to rilQBOS, Md sajing «* 6t" - -Ei>.

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itanding. And I mnst acknowledge unto jron that I am ignorant of
that logic whidi teacheth men to suffer their adyersaries to proceed
and infer upon absurdities and fidae suppositioi^ to oppose the truth
which they maintain. And yet I know well enough what Aristotle
hath tau^ us oooceming th XaflLCdvm rh h dpxjiy '^^ ^^ cSva/rMv ui
marm riiivew in whioh part of his logic you seem to have been most

But let us onoe again consider your ratiocination as here you
endeavour to reinforoe it Yoinr supposition, you say, ** includes these
two categories, — first, That the Papists are become odious unto us;
secondly, Thai the Papists delivered us the first news of Christianity.''
Well, both these propositions I deny. Papists are not become odious
unto us, though we love not their Popery; Papists did not bring us
the first news of Christianity. This I have proved unto you already,
and shall yet do it farther Will you now be angry and talk of logic,
because I grant not the consequent of these fidse pretensions to be
true? as if every syllogism must of necessity be true materially which
is 80 in form. But yet farther to discover your mistake, I was so
willing to hear yon out unto the utmost of what you had to say, that
in the *^ AnimadverBons,'' after the discoveiy of the Mvitj of the
assertions that it arose from, I suffered your supposition to pass^ and
showed you the weakness of your inference upon it And the reason
of my so doing was this, that because though the Papists brought
not the gospel first into En^and, yet I do not judge it impoesible
but that they may be the means of communicating it unto some other
place or people; and I would be loath to grant that they who receive
it from them must either always embrace their Popery or renomice
the gospel I confess a great entanglement would be put od the
thoughts and minds of such persons by the principle of the infaUi"
bility of them that sent your teachers; whereinto it may be also they
woidd labour to resolve your belief. But yet if withal you shall
communicate unto them the gospel itself, as the great repository of
the mysteries of that religion wherein you instruct them, there is a
sufficient foundation laid for their reception of Christianity and the
rejection of your Popeiy; for when once the go^l hath evidenced
itself unto their consciences that it is from Ood, as it will do if it be
received unto any benefit or advantage at all, they will or may easily
discern that those who brought it unto them were themselves in
many things deceived in their apprehensions of the mind of Qod
therein revealed, especially as to your pretence of the in£Edlibility of
any man or men, any ferther thfua his conceptions agree with what
is revealed in that goqpel which they have received, and now for its
own sake believe to be from Gbd. And once to imagine that when
the Scripture is received by faith, and hath brought the soul into

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subjection to the authority of God, ezeiidDg itself in it and by it,
that it will not warrant them in the rejection of any respect unto
men whatever, is " to err, not knowing the Scripture, nor ihe power
of God/' In this condition of things, men will bless God for any
means which he was pleased to use in the communicating the gospel
unto them ; and if those who were employed in that work shall per-
sist in obtruding upon their £edth and worship things that are not
revealed, they will quickly discover such a contradiction in their prin-
ciples as that it is utterly impossible that they should rationally assent
unto and embrace them all, but either they must renounce Uie gos-
pel which they have brought them, or reject those other principles
which they would impose upon them that are contrary iJiereunta
And whether of these they will do, upon a supposition that the gospel
hath now obtained that authority over their consciences and minds
which it claims in and over all that receive it, it is no hard matter to
determina Men, then, who have themselves mixed the doctrine of
the gospel with many abominable errors of their own, may in the
providence of God be made instrumental to convey the gospel unto
othera At the first tender of it they may, for the truth's sake, which
they are convinced of, receive also the errors that are tendered unto
them, as being as yet not able to discem the chaff firom th6 wheat;
but when once the gospel is rooted in their minds, and they b^in
to have their senses exercised therein to discem between good and
evil, and their faith of the truth they receive is resolved into the
authority of God himself, the author of the gospel, they have their
warrant for the rejection of the errors which they had before imbibed,
according as they shall be discovered unto them. For though they
may first consider the gospel on the proposition of them that first
bring them the tidings of it, as the Samaritans came to our Saviour
upon the information of the woman, yet when they come to experi-
ence themselves its power and efl&cacy, they believe it for its own
sake, as those did also in our Lord Jesus Christ upon his own account ;
when this is done they will be enabled to distinguish, as the prophet
speaks, ** between a dream and a prophecy, between chaff and wheat,"
between error and trutL And thus if we should grant that the first
news of Christianity was brought into England by Papists, yet it
doth not at all follow that if we reject Popeiy we must also reject

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 40 of 67)