Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

. (page 41 of 67)
Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 41 of 67)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the gospel, or esteem it a romance; for if we should have received
Popery, we should have received it only upon the credit and autho-
rity of them that brought it, but the truth of Christianity we should
have received on the authority of the gospel which was brought unto
us: 80 that our entertainment of Popery and Christianity standing
not on the same bottom or foot of account, we might well reject the
one and retain the other. But this consideration as to us is needless;



Digitized by



Google



WHENCE THE GOSPEL CAME TO EXOLAND. 331

they were not Papists which brought ChristiaDity first into this land.
Wherefore, well knowing that the whole strength of your reasoning
depends on the supposition that they were so, you proceed to confirm
it in your manner; that is, by saying it over again. But we will
hear you speaking your own words: —

" We had not our Christianity immediately from the east, nor firom
Joseph of Arimathea^ we Englishmen had not; for as he deUvered
his Christianity unto some Britons when our land was not called
England, but Albion or Brittany, and the inhabitants were not Eng-
lishmen, but Britons or Cimbrians, so likewise did that Christianity
and the whole news of it quite vanish, being suddenly overwhelmed
by the ancient deluge of Paganism. Nor did it ever come firom them
to us; nay, the Britons themselves had so forgot and lost it, that they
also needed a second conversion ; which they received fi-om Pope Eleu-
therius. And that was the only news of Christianity which prevailed
and lasted even amongst the very Britons: which seems to me a great
secret of divine Providence in planting and governing his church, as if
he would have nothing to stand firm and lasting but what was imme-
diately fixed by and seated upon that rock ; — for all other conversions
have variety, and the very seats of the other apostles taSled, that all
might the better cement in the unity of one head; nay, the tables
which God wrote with his own hand were broken, but the others
written by Moses remained, that we might learn to give a due respect
unto him whom God hath set over us as our head and ruler under
him, and none exalt himself against hinL I know you will laugh at
this my observation ; but I cannot but tell you what I think. When I
speak, then, of the news of Christianity being first brought to this land,
I mean not that which was first brought upon the earth or soil of this
land, and spoken to any body then dwelling here, but that which was
delivered to the forefathers of the now present inhabitants, who were
Saxons or Englishmen. And I say that we, the now present inha-
bitants of England, offspring of the Saxons or English, had the first
news of our Christianity immediately from Rome, and firom Pope
Gregorius, the Roman patriarch, by the hands of his missioner, St
Austin. Since, then, the categoric expressions are both clear, — name-
ly. That the Papists first brought us the news of Christianity; and,
secondly. That the Papist is now become odious unto us, — what say
you to my consequent. That the whole story of Christianity may as
well be deemed a romance as any part of that Christianity we at
first received is now judged to be a part of a romance? This conse-
quence of mine it behoved a man of those great parts you would be
thought to have to heed attentively, and yet you never minded it"

Some few observations upon this discourse of yours will fieurther
manifest the absurdity of that consequence which you feign not to



Digitized by



Google



332 A VINDIGITION OF THE ANDEADYSBSIONS OK FIAT LXJJL

have been taken notice of in the ^Animadversions;^ for which you
had no cause, but that you might easily discern that you did not de-
serve it First, then, you grant that the gospel came out of the east
into this land: so, then, we did not first receive the goqpel from Rome,
much less by the means of Papista *^ But the land was then called
Albion or Brittany, and the people Britons or Cimbrians, not Eng-
lishmen.^' What then? though the names of places or people are
changed, the gospel, wherever it is, is stiD the sama ** But Uie Britons
lost the gospel until they had a new conversion from Rome, by the
means of Eleutheriua" But you fail, sir, and are either ignorant in
the story of those times or else wilfully pervert the trutL All the
fskthers and £5tvour«:B of that stoiy agree that Christianity was well
rooted and known in Britain when Lucius, as is pretended, sent to
Eleutherius for assistance in its propagation. Tour own Baronius
will assure you no less, ad an. 183, n. S, 4. Gildas, De Excid. will
do it more fully. Yirunnius tells us that the Britons were then
^ strengthened in the £edth," not that they then received it ; strength-
ened in what they had, not newly converted, though some, as it is
said, were sa And the days of Lucius are assigned by Sabellicus as
the time wherein the whole province received the name of Christ
** publicijus cum ordinatione," — " by public decree." That it was
recdved there before, and abode there, as in other places of the world,
under persecution, all men agree. In this interval of time did the
British church bring forth Claudia, Ruffina, Elvanus, and Meduinus;
whose names, amongst others, are yet preserved. And to this space
of time do the testimonies of Tertullian adv. Judseos, and of Origen,
Hom. 4, in Ezek., concerning Christianity in Britain, belong. Be-
sides, if the only prevalent religion in Brittany were, as you fancy,
that which came from Rome, how came the observation of Easter,
both amongst the Britons, as Beda manifests, and the Scots, as Petnis
Cluniaoensis declares, to be answerable to the customs of the Eastern
church, and contrary to those of the Roman? Did those that -came
from Rome teach them to do that which they judged their duty not
to do? But what need we stay in the confutation of this figment?
The very epistle of Eleutherius manifests it abundantly so to ba If
there be any thing of truth in that rea^ipt, it doth not appear that
Lucius wrote any thing unto him about Christian religion, but about
the imperial laws to govern his kingdom by; and Eleutherius, in his
answer, plainly intimates that the Scripture was received amongst the
Britons, and the gospel much dispersed over the whole nation. And
yet this figment of your own you make the bottom of a most strange
contemplation, — ^namely, that Qod in his " proiddence would have
all that Christianity fail which came not from Roma'* That is the
meaning of those expressions, " He would have nothing stand firm or



Digitized by



Google



WHSNCE THE OOSPEL CAME TO ENOLANIX 333

lasting but what was immediately fixed by and seated on that rock;
for all other conyeniona have vanished'^ Really, sir, I am sorry for
you, to see what wofdl shelyes your prejudioate opinions do cast you
upon, who in yourself seem to be a well-meaning, good-natured man.
Do you think, indeed, that those conversions that were wrought in
the world by the means of any persons not coming from Rome, which
were Christ himself and all his apostles, weie not fixed on the rock?
Can such a blasphemous thou^t enter into your heart ? If thoee pri-
mitive converts that were called unto the faith by persons coming out
of the east were not built on the rock, they all perished everlastin^y,
every soul of them ; and if the otiier churches planted by them were
not immediately fixed and seated on the rock, tbey went all to hell,
— the gates of it prevailed against them. Do you think, indeed, thai
Qod suffered all the churches in the world to come to nothing, that
all Christians might be brought into subjection to your pope? which
you call "^ cementing in a unity of one head." If you do so, you
think, wickedly, that he is altogether like unto yourself; but he will
reprove you, and set your faults in order before your eye& Such
horrible, dismal thoughts do men aUow themselves to be conversant
withal, who are resolved to sacrifice truth, reason, and charity unto
dieir pr^udioes and interest I Take heed, sir, lest the rock that you
boast of prove not seven hilk, and deceive you. In the pursuit of
the same consideration you tell m^ " that I will laugh at your obser-
vation, that the tables written by God's own hand were broken, but
^lose written by Moses remained, that we may leam to give a due
req)ect to him whom Qod hath set over ua" But you do not well
to say so; I do not laugh at your observation, but I rea)ly pity yoa
that make it Pray, sir, what were those tables that were written by
Moses, when those written by Qod were broken? Such mistakes aa
these you ever and anon fall into, and I fear for want of being con-'
versant in holy writ; which it seems your principles prompt you unto
a neglect o£ Sir, the tables prepared by Moses were no less written
with the finger of Qod than those were which he first prepared him-
self, Exod. xxxiv. 1, 28; Deut x. 1, 2, 4. And if you had laid a good
ground for your notion, that the taUes prepared by God were broken^
and those hewed by Moses preserved, and would have only added,
what you ought to have done, that there was nothing in the tables
d^vered untu the people by Moses but what was written by the
finger of Qod, I should have commended both it and the inference
you make from it As it is built by you on the sand, it would fall
with its own weight, were it no heavier than a feather. But you lay
great stress, I suppose, on that which follows, — namely, '* That the
Britons being expelled by the Saxons, the Suxons first received their
Ciiristianity irom Rome." You may remember what hath been told



Digitized by



Google



334 A VINDICATION OF THE ANDfAOYEBSIONS ON FIAT LUX

jou already in answer to this case, about Bome's being left without
inhabitants by Totilas. Besides, if we that are now inhabitants of
England must be thought to have first received the gospel then when
it was first preached unto our own progenitors^ in a direct line ascend-
ing, this will be found a matter so dubious and uncertain as not
possibly to be a thing of any concernment in Christian reli^on; and,
moreover, will exempt most of the chief families of England from
your enclosure, seeing one way or other they derive themselves firom
the ancient Britons. Such pitiful trifles are you forced to make use
of to give countenance unto your cause! But let it be granted that
Christianity was first communicated unto the Saxons from Rome in
the days of Pope Gregory, — which yet, indeed, is not true neither;
for queen Bertha^ with her bishop Luidhardus, had both practised the
worship of Christ in England before his coming, and so prepared the
people, that Gregoiy says in one of his epistles, " Anglorum gentem
voluisse fieri Christianam," — what will thence ensue? "Why, plainly,
that we must all be Papists, or atheists, and esteem the whole gospel
a romance." But why so, I pray? " Why, the categoric assertions are
both clear, — ^namely, that the Papists first brought us the news of
Christianity, and that Papists are now odious." But how comes this
about? We were talking of Gregory, and some that came from Rome
in his days ; and if you take them for Papists you are much de-
ceived. Prove that there was one Papist at Rome in the days of
that Gregory, and I will be another, — I mean such a Papist as your
present pope is, or as yourself ara Do you think that Gregory be-
lieved the Catholic supremacy and infallibility of the pope? the do-
ing whereof in an especial manner constitutes a man a Papist If
you have any such thoughts, you are an utter stranger to tiie state
of things in those days, as also to the writings of Gregoiy himself:
for your better information you may do well to consult him, lib iv.
epist 32, 36, 38; and sundry other instances may be given out of
his own writings, how remote he was from your present Popery.
Irregularities and superstitious observations were, not a few in his
days, crept into the church of Rome, which you still pertinaciously
adhere unto; — as you have the happiness to adhere firmly unto any
thing that you once irregularly embrace; but that the main doc-
trines, principles, practices, and modes of worship which constitute
Popery, were known, admitted, practised, or received at Rome in the
days of Gregory, I know full well that you are not able to prova
And by this you may see the truth of your first assertion, '' That
Papists brought us the first news of Christianity;" which you do
not in the least endeavour to prove, but take it, hand over head, to
be the same with this, '' That some from Rome preached the gospel to
the Saxons in the days of Gr^ry/' which it hath no manner of



Digitized by



Google



WHENCE THE GOSPEL CAME TO ENGLAND. 335

affinity withaL Your second true assertion is, " That the Papist is
now become odious unto us;" but yet neither will this be granted
you. Fopery we dislike; but that the Papists are become odious
unto us we absolutely deny. Though we like not the Popery they
have admitted, yet we love them for the Christianity which they
have retsdned. And must not that needs be a doughty consequence
that is educed out of principles wherein there is not a word of truth?
Besides, I have already in part manifested unto you, that supposing
both of them to be true, as neither of them is, yet your consequence
is altogether inconsequent, and will by no means follow upon them.
And this will yet more fully appear in an examination of your en-
suing discourse.

That which you fix upon to except agamst is towards the close of
my discourse to this purpose, in these words, as set down by you,
p. 40: ''Many things delivered us at first with the first news of
Christianity, may be afterward rejected for the love of Christ, and by
the commission of Christ" The truth of this assertion I have newly
proved again unto you, and have exemplified it in the instance of
Papists bringing the first news of Christianity to any place; which is
not impossible but they may do, though to tiiis nation they did not
I had also before confinned it with such reasons as you judged it best
to take no notice of; which is your way with things that are too hard
for you to grapple withaL I must, I see, drive these things through
the thick obstacles of your prejudices with more instances, or you
will not be sensible of them. What think you, then, of those who
received the first news of Christianity by believers of the Circumcision^
who at the same time taught them Uie necessity of being circumcised,
and of keeping Moses's law ? Were they not bound afterward, upon
the discovery of the mistake of their teachers, to retain the gospel,
and the truth thereof taught by them, and to reject the observation
of Moswcal rites and observations ? or were they free, upon the dis-
covery of their mistake, to esteem the whole gospel a romance?
What think you of those that were converted by Arians ? which were
great multitudes, and some whole nationa Were not those nations
bound for the love of Christ, by his word, to retain their Christianity,
and reject their Arianism? or must they needs account the whole
gospel a iable, when they were convinced of the error of their first
teachers, denying Christ Jesus in his divine nature to be of the same
substance with his Father, or essentially God? To give you an
instance that, it may be, will please you better: There are very many
Indians in New England, or elsewhere, converted unto Christianity,
by Protestants; without whose instruction they had never received
the least rumour or report of it Tell me your judgment: if you were
now amongst them, would you not endeavour to persuade them that



Digitized by



Google



336 A YINDlCATtOK OF THS AKIJCIDYERSIOKS ON FULT LUX.

Christian religion indeed was trne, but that their first instructors in
it had deceiv^ them as to many particulaiB of it; which you waold
nndeceive them in, and yet keep them close to their Christianity?
And do you nqt know that many who have in former days been by
heretics converted to Christianity from Pagamsmi have afterward,
from the principles of their Christianity, been convinced of their
heresy, and retaining the one, have rejected the other ? It is not for
your advantage to maintain an oppodtion agaiiMt so evident a truth,
and exemplified by so many instances in all agea I know well enough
the ground of your perdnaciousness in your mistake; it is, that men
who receive the gospel do resolve their £aith into the authority of
them that first preach it unto them. Now, this supposition is openly
fiaJse, and universally, as to all persons whatever not divinely inGpired,
yea, as to the apostles themselves, but only with T&sped unto their
working of miracles, which gave testimony unto the doctrine that they
taught Otherwise, God's revelation contained in the Scriptures is
that which the fruth of men is formally and ultimately resolved into;
so that, whatever propositions that are made unto them they may re-
ject, unless they do it with a ** non obstcmte " for its supposed revela^
tion, the whole revelation abides unshaken, and tbexr fiuth founded
thereon. But as to the persons who first bring unto any the tidings of
the gospel, seeing the faith of them that receive it is not resolved into
their authority or infallibiltty, they may, they ought, to examine their
proposals by that unerring word which they ultimately rest upon, as
did the Bereans, and receive or reject them, at first or af^ward, aff
they see cause ; and this without the least impeadmiait of the truth or
authority of the gospel itself, which, under this formal consideration,
as revealed of Qod, they absolutely believe. Let us How see what you
except hereunto. First, you ask, ** What love of Christ's dictates, what
commission of Christ, allows you to choose and reject at your own plea^
sure ?" Arts. None; nor was that at all in question, nor do you speak
like a man that durst look upon the true state of the controversy b^
tween us. You proclaim your cause desperate by this perpetual tergi-
versation. The question is. Whether, wh^i men preach the gos^ unto
others as a revelation from God, and bring along with them the Scrip-
ture, wherein thqr aay that revelation is comprised, when that is re-
ceived as such, and ha^h its authority confirmed in the minds of them
that receive it, whether are they not bound to try all the teadiing in
particular of them that first bring it unto them, or afterward continue
the preaching of it, whether it be consonant to that mle or -ward
jrherehi they believe the whole revelation of the will of God relating
to the gospel declared unto them to be contained, and to embrace
what is suitable thereunta, and to reject any thing that in particular
may be, by the miatakes of the teachers, imposed upon them? In-



Digitized by



Google



WHENCE THE OOSPfliGlKB 90 nnOLAJnX S37

stead of'' belioTOig what ike Sfiriptoie taadii^, and x»je9tttig vliat it
flfWirlAUTMia/' you substitute ** chiHmngm' rejecting at yow&wnpUa^
sure,** - -^ tbiog wherek our dieoourse is not ^i all eooosniML Yon
add, ^ What her^/Ho waa arer ao nxueh a fool m not io pnataiid tfai
lo¥e of ChagL and contmittioB o£ Clvist for what ha did?'' Wha*

mme pretfiaid to do them on folaaly? Maj hU a judge have hiacom*
aaisaon bom the king becaaaeaom^ hn/e fountarfeitad ^ gnat saalf
Kay not ymi aia^er^y aed( the good aj94 paaoa of your ocmnirj ttpoft
the prioiiplas of your reUgiim, ibou^ aome, fmUndbg the same
prineiples, havse aoogfat iU diatttrbaaca and luinf H there foe any
force in Uiis exoapliiw, it orarthrowa iha atttiiacitjr and effioacy of
arery jbhiag that any inan may fdaely pratepd unto; whioh iato
shut all order, role, goYarmnent, and virtue mA ni tiie world. Ton
proeeed* ^' How diall any jone iuxow yon do it out of any anch lova
or oommifliioB, einae those who deliveied the actadea of fiedth now
rejected fwetendad aqnal lore io Obrist and oaxamiaBion af Ghiist Car
the deliy^^ of il^em aa foij other?'^ J wonder yon should prooaad
with such impertinent inquiries How oan any n^an manifaat that ha
doth any thing by the oonomjamon of another, but by his produaing
and manifoating his commission to be hia? And how oan ha prove
that be doth it out of lova to him, but by his diligenca^ oaca, and cotir*
apienoe in the discharge of his dutyt ns our fiavk^ir teUa us, aaying,
'^ If ye love ne, keep my aommandmiea^" which is4^ praper effaot
af love unto him, and open evidaoee or manifoatation af it Now,
how should a man prove that ha doth any thing by the cammiasioB
of Christ, but by prcdueing that commiaaion; that is, in d^ things
about which we tr^at, by daelaring and (»^ideneing that the thiugs he
propoeeth to be bdieved are revealed by his Spirit in his word, and
tl^ the things which he rejecls are contrary theeeunto? And what*
ever' men may pretend, Chrijit gives out no adverse omnmifisions; hia
word is every way and every whece the same, at perfect harmony aad
consistency with itself: so that tf it oome to that, that sev^ual penaena
do teach contrary doctrines, either before or after one anatfaer, or ta*
g^har, under the same pretence of receiving diam item C3)rist,'^-aa
was the case between the Pharisees of old that behaved and the
apostles, — tJiey that attend unto them have a peiieet^uia to direct
them in their dioice, a perfect nde to judge of the tilings proposed
As in the church of the Jews, the Fhorijiees had taught the people
many things as from God, — for their traditions or ortd lawih^ pra»
tended to be from God, — our Saviour comes, mally a teach^ from
God, and be disproves their faiae doctrines which they had prepoa*
seesed the people withal; and all this he doth by the Scripture, the
word of truth, which they had before receiveoL And this exampia
VOL. XIV. 22



Digitized by



Google



388 A VINDICATION OF THE ANDCADYEBSIOyS ON FIAT LUX.

hath he left unto his church unto the end of the world. But you
yet proceed: " Why may we not at length rgect all the rest for love
of something else, when this love of Christ, which is now crept into
the very outside of our lips, is flipped off flrom thence? Do you think
men cannot find acavil against him as well as his law delivered unto
us with the first news of him, and as easily dig up the root as cut up
the branches?" You are the pleasantest man at a disputation that
ever I met withal ; " hand ulli veterum virtute secundus," you outgo
your masters in palpable sophistry. If we may and ought, for the
love of Christ, reject errors and untruths taught by fallible men,
then we may reject him also for the love of other things! Who
doubts it but men may if they will, if they have a mind to do so? They
may do so physically, but may they do so morally ? may they do so
upon the same or as good grounds and reasons as they reject errors
and false worship for the sake of Christ? With such Idnd of arguing
is the Roman cause supported. Again, you suppose the law of
Christ to be rejected, and therefore say that his person may be so
also; but this contains an application of the general thesis unto
your particular case, and thereupon the begging of the thing in ques-
tion. Our inquiry was general, whether things at first delivered by
any persons that preach the gospel may not be rejected, without any
impeachment of the authority of the gospel itself? Here, that you
may insinuate that to be the case between you and us, you suppose
the things rejected to be the law of Christ, when, indeed, they are
things rejected because they are contrary to the law of Christ, and so
affirmed in the assertion which you seek to oppose ; for nothing may
be rejected by the commission of Christ but what is <x)ntrary to his
law. The truth is, he. that rejects the law of Christ, as it is his, needs
no other inducement to reject his person; for he hath done it already
in the rejection of his law. But yet it may not be granted, though
it belong not unto our present discourse, that every one that rejects
any part of the law of Christ must therefore be in a propensity to
reject Christ himself, provided that he do it only because he doth not
believe it to be any part of his law; for whilst a man abides firm and
constant in his faith in Christ and love unto him, with a resolution
to submit himself to his whole word, law, and institutions, his misap-
prehensions of this or that particular in them is no impeachment of
his faith or leva Of the same importance is that which you add, —
namely, " Did not the Jews, by pretence of their love to the immortal
God, whom their forefathers served, reject the whole gospel at once?
and why may we not possibly by piecemeal?" You do only cavil at



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 41 of 67)