Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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away force and violence, prisons and fagots, and in one day the whole
compages of that stupendous fabric of the Papacy will be dissolved;
and the Ufe which will be maintained in it, springing only from secu-
lar advantages and inveterate prejudices, would, together with them,
decay and disappear. Neither can any thing but a confidence of the
ignorance of men in all things that are past, yea, in what was done
tdmost by their own grandsires, give countenance to a man, in his own
mlent thoughts, for such insinuations of quietness in the world before
the Beformation. The wars, seditions, rebellions, and tumults (to
omit private practices), that were either raised, occasioned, or counte-
nanced by the pope s absolving subjects frx)m their allegiance, kings
and states from their oaths, given mutually for the securing of peace
between them, all in the pursuit of their own worldly interests, do
fill up a good part of the stories of some ages before the Beformation.
Whatever, then, ia pretended, things were not so peaceable and quiet



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32 ANIHAmrSBSIOSS ov a tbeatise

in ihose days as they are now r^reeented to men that mind only
things that are present; nor was their agreement their virtue, bat
th^ sin and misery, being centred in blindness and ignorance, and
cemented with blood.

y. " That the first reformers were most of them sorry, contemp*
tible persons, whose errors were propagated by indirect means, and
entertained for sinister ends,'' is in several places of this book alleged,
and consequences^ pretended thence to ensue, urged and improved.
But the truth is, the more contemptible the persons were that b^an the
work, the greater glory and lustre is reflected on the work itself; which
points out to a higher cause than any [which] appeared outwardly for
the carrying of it on. It is no small part of the gospel's glory, Uxat,
being promulgated by persons whom the world looked on with the
greatest contempt and scorn imaginable, as men utterly destitute of
whatever was by them esteemed noble or honourable, it prevailed
notwithstanding in the minds of men, to eradicate the inveterate
prejudices received by Uadition fix)m their fathers, to overthrow the
ancient and outward glorious worship of the nations, and to bring
them into subjection unto Christ Neither can any thing be written
with more contempt and ocom^ nor with greater undervaluation of.
the abilities or outward condition of the first refonners, than was
spoken and written by the greatest, and wisest, and leamedst of
men of old, concerning the preachers and planters of Christianity,
Should I but repeat the biting sarcasms, contemptuous reproaches,
and scorns wherewith, with plausible pretences, the apostles, and
those that followed them in their work of preaching the gospel, were
entertained by Celsus, Ludan, Porphyry, Julian, Hierocles, with many
more, men learned and wise, I could easily manifest how short our
new masters come of them in fietcetious wit, beguiling eloquence, and
fair pretences, when they seek, by stories, jestings, calumnies, and
false reports, to expose the first reformers to the contempt and scorn
of men who know nothing of them but their names, and these as
covered with all the dirt they can possibly cast upon them. But I
intend not to tempt the atheistical wits of any to an approbation of
their sin, by that compliance which the vain fancies of such men do
usually afford them, in the contemplation of the wit and ingenuity,
as they esteem it, of plau^ble calumniea The Scripture may be
heard: that abundantly testifies that the character given of the first
reformers, as men poor, unlearned, seeking to advantage them-
selves, by the troubling of others better, greater, and wiser than
they, in their religion, was received of the apostles,, evangelists,
and other Christians, in the first budding of Christianity. But
the truth is, all these are but vain pretences; those knew of old,
and these do now, that the persons whom they vilify and scorn



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UNTITLED FIAT LUX S3

were eminently fitted of Qod for the work that they were called
unto.

The " receiving of their opinions for anister ends," reflects princi-
pally on this kingdom of England; and must do so, whilst the sur^
mises of a few interested firiars shall be believed by Englishmen^
before the solemn protestation of so renowned a king as he was who
first cashiered the pope's authority in this nation : for what he, being
alive, avowed on his royal word, and vowed, as in the sight of the
Almighty Qod, was an effect of light and conscience in him, they will
needs have to be a consequent of his lust and levity. And what
honour it is to the royal government of this nation, to have those
who swayed the sceptre of it but a few years ago pubUdy traduced
and exposed to obloquy by the libellous pens of obscure and unknown
persons, wise men may be easily able to judge. This I am sure,
there is httle probalrility that they should have any real regard or
reverence for the present rulers, farther than they find or hope that
they shall have their countenance and assistance for the furtherance
of their private interest, who so revile their predecessors for acting
contrary unto it, — ^and this loyalty the king's majesty may secure him-
self of from the most seditious fanatic in the nation, — so highly is he
beholden to these men for their duty and obedienca

VL " That our departure from Rome hath been the cause of all
our evils, and particularly of all those divisions which are at this day
found amongst Protestants, and which have been since the Reforma-
tion,'' is a supposition that not only insinuates itself into the hidden
sophistry of our author's discourse, but is also everjrwhere spread
over the ftice of it, with as little truth or advantage to his purpose
as those that went befora So the Pagans judged the primitive Chris-
tians; so also did the Jews, and do to this day. Here is no new task
lies before us. The answers given of old to them, and yet continued
to be given, will suffice to these men also. The truth is, our divisions
are not the effect of our leaving Rome, but of our being there. In
the apostasy of that church came upon men all that darkness, and
all those prejudices, which cause many needless divisions amongst
them. And is it any wonder that men, partly led, partly driven, out
of the right way, and turned a dean contrary course for sundry gene-
rations, should, upon liberty obtained to retmn to their old paths^
somewhat vary in their choice of particular tracks, though they all agree
to travel towards the same place, and, in general, steer their course
accordingly? Besides, let men say what they please, the differences
amongst the Protestants that are purely religious are no other but
such as ever were, and, take away external force, ever will be, amongst
the best of men, whilst they know but in part; however, they may
not be managed with that prudence and moderation which it is our

VOL. XIV. 3



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84 ANIMADYEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

duty to ufie in and about them. Were not the consequences of our
differences, which arise merely from our folly and sin, of more impor-
tant consideration than our differences themselves, I should very little
value the one or the other; knowing that none of them, in their own
nature, are such as to impeach either our present tranquillity or future
happiness. So that neither are the divisions that are among Pro-
testants in themselves of any importance, nor were they occasioned
by their departure from Roma That all men are not made perfectly
wise, nor do know all things perfectly, is partly a consequence of their
condition in this world, partly a fruit of their own lusts and corrup-
tions; neither to be imputed to the religion which they profess, nor
to the rule that they pretend to follow. Had all those who could
not continue in the profession of the errors and practice of the wor-
ship of the church of Rome, and were therefore driven out by violence
and blood from amongst them, been as happy in attending to the rule
that they chose for their guidance and direction as they were wise
in choosing it, they had had no other differences among them than
what necessarily follow their ooncreated different constitutions, com-
plexions, and capacitiea It is not the work of religion in this world
wholly to dispel men's darkness, nor absolutely to eradicate their dis-
tempers: somewhat must be left for heaven; and that more is than
ought to be is the fault of men, and not of the truth they profess.
That religion which reveals a sufficient rule to guide men into peace,
union, and all necessary truth, is not to be blamed if men in all
things follow not its direction. Nor are the differences amongst the
Protestants greater than those amongst the members of the Roman
church. The imputation of the errors and miscarriages of the Sod-
nians and Quakers unto Protestancy, is of no other nature than that
of Pagans of old charging the follies and abominations of the Gnostics
and Valentinians on Christianity; for those that are truly called Pro-
testants, whose concurrence in the same confession of faith, as to all
material points, is sufficient to cast them under one denomination,
what evils, I wonder, are to be found amongst them, as to divisions,
that are not conspicuous to all in the Papacy? The princes and
nations of their profession are, or have all been, engaged in mortal
feuds and wars, one against another, all the world over. Their divines
write as stiffly one against another as men can do : mutual accusations
of pernicious doctrines and practices abound amongst them. I am
not able to guess what place will hold the books written about their
intestine differences, as our author doth concerning those that are
written by Protestants against the Papacy ; but this I know, all public
libraries and private studies of learned men abound with them: their
invectives, apologies, accusations, charges, underminings of one another,
are part of the weekly news of these daya Our author knows well



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. ' 35

enough wliat I mean. Nor are these the ways and practices of pri«
vate men, but of whole societies and fraternities; which, if they ate
in truth such as they are by each other represented to be, it would
be the interest of mankind to seek the suppression and extermination
of some of them. I profess I wonder, whilst their own house is so
visibly on fire, that they can find leisure to scold at others for not
quenching theirs. Nor is the remaining agreement that they boast
of one jot better than either their own dissensions or oura It is not
union or agreement amongst men absolutely that is to be valued.
Simeon and Levi never did worse than when they agreed best, and
" were brethren in eviL'' The grounds and reasons of men's agree-
ment, with the natiure of the things wherein they are agreed, are that
which makes it either commendable or desirabla Should I lay forth
what these are in the Papacy, our author, I fear, would count me un-
mannerly and uncivil; but yet, because the matter doth so require,
I must needs tell him that many wise men do affirm that ignorance,
inveterate prejudice, secular advantages, and external force, are the
chief constitutive principles of that union and agreement which re-
mains amongst them. But, whatever their evils be, it is pretended
that they have a remedy at hand for them all But, —

VII. " That we have no remedy of our evils, no means of ending
our differences, but by a retumal to the Roman see." Whether there
be any way to end d^erences among ourselves, as far and as soon as
there is any need they should be ended, will be afterward inquired
into. This I know, that a retumal unto Home will not do it, unless,
when we come thither, we can learn to behave ourselves better than
those do who are there already; and there is indeed no party of men
in the world but can give as good security of ending our differences
as the Bomanists. If we would all turn Quakers it would end our dis-
putes; and that is all that is provided us if we will turn Papists. This
is the language of every party, — and, for my part, I think they believe
what they say, — " Come over to us, and we shall all agree.*' Only the
Bomanists are likely to obtain least credit as to this matter among wise
men, because they cannot agree among themselves, and are as unfit to
umpire the differences of other men as Philip of Macedon was to quiet
Greece, whilst he, his wife, and children, were together by the ears at homa

" But why have not Protestants a remedy for their evils, a means of
ending and making up their differences?" They have the word that
is left them for that purpose, which the apostles commended unto
them, and which the primitive church made use of, and no other.
That this will not serve to prevent or remove any hurtful differences
fix)m amongst us, it is not its feult, but ours. And could we prevail
with Roman Catholics to blame and reprove us, and not to blame the
religion we profess, we should count ourselves beholden to them; and



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S6 AKIMADVEBSIONS ON A TBEATISS

they would have the less to answer for another day. Bat as things
are stated, it is fisdlen out very unhappily for them; that finding they
cannot hurt us but that their weapons must pass through the Scrip-
ture, th(U is it which they are forced to direct their blows ag^dnst
'^ The Scripture is dark, obscure, insufficient, cannot be known to be
the word of Qod, nor understood," is the main of their plea, when
they intend to deal with Protestants. I am persuaded that they are
troubled when they are put upon this work It cannot be acceptable
to the minds of men to be engaged in such undervaluations of the
word of God. Sure they can have no other mind in this work than
a man 'would have in pulling down his house to find out his enemy.
He that shall read what the Scripture testifies of itself, — ^that is, what
God doth of it, — and what the ancients speak concerning it, and shall
himself have any acquaintance with the nature and excellency of it^
must needs shrink extremely when he comes to see the Romanist's
discourse about it, — indeed against it For my part, I can truly pro-
fess, that no one thing doth so alienate my mind from the present
Roman religion as this treatment of the word of God. I cannot but
think that a sad profession of religion which enforceth men to decry
the use and excellency of that which (let them pretend what they
please) is the only infallible revelation of all tkat truth by obedience
whereunto we become Christiana I do heartily pity learned and
ingenious men, when I see them enforced, by a private corrupt inte-
rest, to engage in this wofiil work of undervaluing the word of God ;
and so much the more, as that I cannot but hope that it is a very
ungrateful work to themselves. Did they delight in it, I should
have other thoughts of them, and conclude that there are more
atheists in the world than those whom our author informs us to be
lately turned so in England. This, then, is the remedy that Protec-
tants have for their evils, — ^this the means of making up all their dif-
ferences ; which they might do every day, so far as in this world it
is possible that that work should be done amongst men, if it were
not their own fault That they do not so, blame them still, blame
them soundly, lay on reproofs till I cry. Hold ; but let not, I pray,
the word of God be blamed any more. Methinks I could beg this of
a Catholic, especially of my countrymen, that whatever they say to
Protestants, or however they deal with them, they would let the
Scripture alone, and not decry its worth and usefulness. It is not
Protestants' book, it is God's, who hath only granted them a use
of it, in common with the rest of men ; and what is spoken in dispa-
ragement of it doth not reflect on them, but on him that made it
and sent it to them. It is no policy, I confess, to discover our secrets
to our adversaries, whereby they may prevent their own disadvan-
tages for the future; but yet, because I look not on the Romanists



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ENTlTIlEa) FUT LUX 3T

as absolute enemies, I shall let them know for once, that when Fro^
testonts come to that head of their disputes or orations wherein thej
contend that the Scripture is so and so, obscure and insufficient, they
generally take great contentment to find that their religion cannot
be opposed without casting down the word of God from its excellency,
and enthroning somewhat else in the room of it Let them make
what use of this they please, I coidd not but tell it tiiem for their
good; and I know it to be true. For the present it comes too late;
for another main principle of our author's discourse is, —

VIII. ** That the Scripture, on sundry accounts, is insufficient to
settle us in the truth of religion, or to bring us to an agreement
amongst ourselves; and that, — 1. Because it is not to be known to be
the word o^ Ood but by the testimony of the Roman church ; and
then, — 2. Cannot be well translated into any vulgar language; and is
also, — 3. In itself obscure; and, — 4. We have no way to determine of
what is its proper sensa'^ But, '^ Hie nigrsB succus loliginis: hssc est
-^Erugo mera," [Hor. Sat L 4, 100.] I suppose they will not tell a Pagan
or a Mohammedan this story; at least I heartily wish that men would
not suffer themselves to be so &r transported by their private interest
as to forget the general concernments of Christianity. " We cannot,''
say they, " know the Scripture to be the word of (Jod but by the autho<-
rity of the church of Rome ;'' and all men may easily assure themselves
that no man had ever known there was such a thing as a churchy
much less that it had any authority, but by the Scripture. And
whither this tends, is easy to guess. But it will not entar into my
head that we cannot know or believe the Scripture to be the word
of God any otherwise than on the authority of the church of Boma
The greatest part of it was believed to be so before there was any
churdi at Rome at all; and all of it is so' by millions in the world
who make no account of that church at alL Now some say there is
such a churcL I wish men would leave persuading us that we do
not believe what we know we do believe, or that we cannot do that
which we know we do, and see that millions besides ourselves do so
too. There are not many nations in Europe wherein there are not
thousands who are ready to lay down their lives to give testimony
that the Scripture is the word of God, that care not a rush for the
authority of the present church of Rome; and what farther evidence
they can give that they believe so, I know not And this they do
upon that innate evidence that the word of God hath in itself and
gives to itself, the testimony of Christ and his apostles, and the teach*
ing of the church of God in all agea I must needs say, there is not
any thing for which Protestants are so much beholden to the Roman
Catholics as this, — that they have with so much importunacy cast
upon them the work of proving the Scripture to be of divine original,



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S8 AKIMADVEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

or to have been given by inspiration from QocL It is as good a work
as a man can well be employed in ; and there is not any tMng I should
more gladly " ex professo" engage in, if the natm« of my present
business would bear such a diversion. Our author would quickly
see what an easy task it were to remove those his reproaches of a
private spirit, of an inward testimony of our own reason, which him-
self, knowing the advantage they afford him amongst vulgar unstudied
men, trifles withaL Both Romanists and Protestants, as far as I can
learn, do acknowledge that the grace of the Spirit is necessary to
enable a man to believe savingly the Scripture to be the word of
Qod, upon what testimony or authority soever that faith is founded
or resolved into. Now, this with Protestants is no private whisper,
no enUiusidam, no reason of their own, no particular testimony, but
the most open, noble, known, that is or can be in the world, — even
the voice of Qod himself speaking publicly to all, in and by the
Scripture evidencing itself by its own divine innate light and excel-
lency,— taught, confirmed, and testified unto, by the church in all
ages, especially the first, — founded by Christ and his apostles. He
that looks for better or other testimony, witness, or foundation to
build his faith upon, may search till doomsday without success. He
that renounceth this shakes the very root of Christianity, and opens
a door to atheism and paganism. This was the anchor of Christians
of old; from which neither the storms of persecution could drive
them, nor the subtilty of disputations entice them. For men to
come now, in the end of the world, and to tell us that we must rest
in the authority of the present church of Rome in our receiving the
Scripture to be the word of God, and then to tell us that that church
hath all its authority by and fix>m the Scripture, — and to know well
enough all the while that no man can know there is any church au-
thority but by the Scripture, — is to speak daggers and swords to us,
upon a confidence that we will suffer ourselves to be befooled, that
we may have the after pleasure of making others like ourselves.

2. Of the translation of the Scripture into vulgar tongues I shall
expressly treat afterward ; and therefore here pass it over.

3. Its obscurity is another thiug insisted on, and highly exaggerated
by our author. And this is another thing that I greatly wonder at
For as wise as these gentlemen would be thought to be, he that has
but half an eye may discern that they consider not with whom they
have to do in this matter. The Scripture, I suppose, they will grant
to be given by inspiration from God ; if they deny it, we are ready
to prove it at any time. I suppose, also, that they will grant that
the end why God gave it was that it might be a revelation of him-
self, so far as it was needful for us to know him, and his mind and
.will, so that we may serve him. If this were not the end for which



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. 39

God gave his word unto us, I wish they would acqutdnt us with some
other: I think it was not that it might be put into a cabinet, and
locked up in a chest If this were the end of it, then God intended
in it to make a revelation of himself, so far as it was necessary we
should know of him, and his mind and will, that we might serve
him; for that which is any one end of any thing or matter, that he
intends who is the author of it Now, if God intended to make such
a revelation of himself, his mind and will, in giving of the Scripture,
as was said, he hath either done it plainly, — ^that is, without any such
obscurity as should frustrate him of his end, — or he hath not ; and that
because either he would not, or he could not I wish I knew which
of these it was that the Roman Catholics do fix upon, — it would
spare me the labour of speaking to the other; but seeing I do not,
that they may have no evasion, I will consider them both. If they
say it was because he could not make any such plain discovery and
revelation of himself, then this is that they say: " That God, intend-
ing to reveal himself, his mind and will, plainly in the Scripture, to
the sons of men, was not able to do it; and tiierefore failed in his
design." This works but little to the glory of his omnipotency and
omnisciency. But to let that pass, wherein men (so they may com-
pass their own ends) seem not to be much concerned, I desire to
know whether this plain, sufficient revelation of God be made any
other way or no ? If no otherwise, then, as I confess, we are all in
the dark, so it is to no purpose to blame the Scripture of obscurity,
seeing it is as lightsome as any thing else is or can be. If this re-
velation be made some other way, it must be by God himself, or
somebody else. That any other should be supposed, in good earnest,
to do that which God cannot (though I know how some Canonists
have jested about the pope), I think will not be pleaded. If God,
then, hath done this another way, I desire to know the true reason
why he could not do it this way, — namely, by the Scripture,— and
therefore desisted from his purpose ? But it may be thought God
could make a revelation of himself, his mind and will, in and by the
Scripture, yet he would not do it plainly, but obscurely: let us then
see what we mean by "plainly" in this business. We intend not that



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 5 of 67)