Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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teachinga Of these there are thousands, yea^ ten thousands in Eng-
land, who are among the vulgar sort as to their outward and civil
condition, that, if occasion were administered, would farther try your
divinity than you are aware, and give you another manner of account
of Paul's epistles than I perceive you suppose they would You are mis-
taken if you imagine that either greatness, or learning, or secular wis-
dom will give a man understanding in the mysteries of the ggq)d, or
make him wise therein. This wisdom is firom above, — ^is wro^ght by
the Spirit of Qod, in the use of spiritual means by himself appointed
for that purpose; and we know not that men of any condition are ex-



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THE LATIN SERYICH 463

oepted from Iiis dispensations of light and grace. 3. To whom, and
for whose instruction, were those epistles of Paul written? Were
they not to the churches of those days: "to all that were at Rome,
called to be saints," Rom. L 7; and " to the church of God that
was at Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus^ with all that eveiywhere
call on his name?" 1 Cor. L 2. And why, I pray, may not the
churches of these days be concerned to know the things that the
Spirit of Qod thought meet to instruct the former diurches in? Are
believers now grown imconcemed in the doctrine of the law and
gospel, of sin and grace, of justification, sanctification, adoption, the
obedience of faith, and duties of holiness, which St Paul reveals and
declares in his epistles? What would you make of them? or what
would you make of the apostle, to write things for the standing use
of the church, wherein so few were like to be concerned? or do
you think that there are but few things in the Scripture wherein
the souls of the people are concerned, and that all the rest are left
for learned men to dispute and wrangle about? But you say there
are '' particular cases in them, that belcniged, it may be, only to
them unto whom their resolution was direct'Od." But are you such
a strange in the Israel of the church as not to know that in the
same cases, or others of a very near alliance tmto them, determin-
able by the apostolical rules delivered in them, the consciences of
your vulgar people are stiQ concerned? 4. Those epistles of Paul
wherein you instance were written by divine inspiration, and given
out, by the direction of the Holy Qhost, for the use of the church of
God in all agea This, I suppose, you will not deny. If so, why
do you set up your wisdom, built on frivolous cavils, against the will,
wisdom, love, and care of God ? I fear you are a stranger unto that
benefit, strength, supportment, light, knowledge, grace, wisdom, and
consolation, which true believers, the disciples of Christy do every
day receive by reading, studying, and meditating on Paulas epistlea
I wish you would mind some of old Chiysostom's exhortations imto
all sorts of persons to the reading and study of them; they are so
interwoven in all his expositions and sermons on them, that it were
lost labour to direct you unto any place in particular. 6. The lat-
ter part of your discourse would loake me suspect that your con-
verse with the Quakers, that you talked of in your ** Fiat," had a
little tainted your judgment, but that I can ascribe the rise of it unto
another cause. Your preferring " the conceived substance of God's
will before the letter of the Scripture " is their very opinion. But
what do you mean by " the conceived substance of God's will ?" Is
it the doctrine concerning the will of God deUvered in the Scripture,
or is it somewhat else ? If some other thing, why do you not declare
it ? If it be no other, iN^y do you distinguish it from itself^ and



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464 A VINDICATION OF THE ANMADVEBSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

prefer it above itself? or do you conceive there is a " conceived sub-
stance of God's will " that is taught, or may be, by men, better than
by Grod himself? (6.) Somewhat you intimate, it may be to this
purpose, in the close of this discourse, p. 96, where you say,* " The
question between us is not, whether the people are to have Gkxl's
word or no? but, whether that word consist in the letter left to the
people's disposal, or in the substance urgently imposed upon the
people for their practice? And this because you understand not, but
mistake the whole business, all yoiu* talk in this your seventeenth
chapter vades into nothing." TVuly, sir, I never heard before that
this was the state of the controversy between us, nor do I now believe
it so to ba For, — (1.) We say not that the letter of the Scripture
is to be left unto the people's disposal; but that the Scripture is to
be commended imto their reverent use and meditation: which we
think cannot be ingenuously denied by any man that hath read the
Scripture, or knows aught of the duty of the disciples of Christ
(2.) The " conceived substance of the word of God," as by any man
conceived and proposed, is no otherwise the word of Qod but as it
answers what is written in the Scripture, and by virtue of its analogy
therewitL (3.) If by " urging the substance of the word of God **
on the people, you understand their instruction in their duty out of
the word of God, by catechising, preaching, admonitions, and exhor-
tations, as you must if you speak intelligibly, why do you oppose
these things as inconsistent ? May not the people have the use of
the Scripture, and yet have the word preached unto them by their
teachers? Did not Paul preach the substance of the word imto the
Bereans ? and yet they are commended that they tried *what be
delivered unto them by the Scripture itself, which they enjoyed
And, (4.) Why do you appropriate this " urging of the substance of
the word of God" unto your usage and practice, giving out as ours
the leaving of the letter of the Scripture to " the people's di^posal/'
when we know the former to be done far more effectually among
Protestants than among you, and yourself cannot deny it to be done
more frequently? (5.) You reproach the Scripture, by calling it
" the letter," in opposition to your " conceived substance of the word
of God:" for though the literal sense of metaphorical expressions
(by you yet adhered unto) be sometimes called " the flesh," John
VL 63, and the carnal sense of the institutions of the Old Testament
be termed " the letter," 2 Cor. iiL 6, Rom. iL 27, yet the covenant of
God is, that his Spirit and word shall ever accompany one another,
Isa. lix. 21 ; and our Saviour tells us that " his words are spirit and
life," John vi 63, and the apostle, " that the word of God is living
and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword," Heb. iv. 12.
There is in the written word a living and life-giving power and



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THE LATIN SERVICE. 465

efficacy, which believers have experience of, and which I should be
sorry to conclude you to be unacquainted withal. " It is the power
of God unto salvation/' the immortal seed whereby we are begotten
imto God, and the food whereby our souls are nourished. And all
this is so not only as to the H ypa^Sv, " that which is written," but
the ri ypafffi, " the writing," or Scripture itself, which is given by in-
spiration from God; for though the things themselves written are the
will of God, and intended in the writing, yet the writing itself being
given out by inspiration, is the word of God, and only original means
of communicating the other imto us, or the word of God wherein his
will is contained, — formally so, as the other is materially. (6.) I find
you are not well pleased when you are minded of the contemptuous
expressions which some of your friends have used concerning the holy
Scripture; but I am now enforced to tell you, that you yourself have
equalled, in my apprehension, the very worst of them, in affirming
that '^ nine parts in ten of it concern not your particular either to
know or practise:" for I presume you make the instance only in
yourself, intending all other individual persons no less than yourself
The apostle tells us that " all Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for in-
struction in righteousness :" you, that '^ nine parts in ten of it do
not concern us to know or practise ;" that is^ not at all. He informs us,
that " whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our
learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might
have hope:" not above one part of ten of what is so written, if you
may be believed, is useful to any such purpose. Do you consider
what you say? God hath given us his whole word for our use and
benefit " Nine parts in ten of it," say you, " do not concern ua
Can possibly any man break forth into a higher reflection upon the
wisdom and love of the holy God? or do you think you could have
made a more woful discovery of your unacquaintedness with your
own duty, the natiure of faith and obedience evangelical, than you
have done in these words? You will not make thus bold with the
books that Aristotle hath left us in philosophy, or Galen in medi-
cine. But the wisdom of God, in that writing which he hath given
us for the revelation of his will, it seems, may be despised. Such
fruit, in the depraved nature of man, will dfiktrpta riig MoXxiig pro-
duce. The practice we blame in you is not worse than the re<ison'
ings you use in its confirmation. I pray God neither of them may
be ever laid unto your charge.

Your following words are a commendation of the zeal and piety of
the dajrs and times before the Beformation, m^ reflections upon all
things amongst us since; and this I shall pass by, so to avoid the
occasion of representing unto you the true state of things, both here

VOL. XIV. 30



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466 A VINDICATION OF THB ANI1CAD7SBSI0NS OK FIAT LTTX.

and elsewhere, in the ages jcia bo much extol Neither, indeed, is
it to any great purpoee to lay <^)en anew that darkneea and wicked-
seas which the world groaned under, and all sober men complained
o£ You proceed to other exceptions, and say: —

*' Where ' Fiat Lux' says that the Pentateuch or hagi(^phy
was never, by any h^h piest among the Jewe^ put into a Tulgar
tongue, nor the gospel or liturgy out of Greek in the eastern part
of the CSmstian <Aiurdi, or Latin in the western^ you slight this
disoourse of mine, because Hebrew, Qreek, and Latin were vulgar
tongues in l^emselvea I know this well enough; but when, and
how long ago, were they sot Not for eome thousand years, to my
knowledge. And was tibe BiUe, Ftahns, or Christian Jitui^, thes
put into Tu%ar tongues when those they were first written in ceased
to be vulgar? 1Mb you iliould have spoken unto if you had meant
to say any thing or gainsay ma Nor is it to purpose to tell me that
St Jerome traMloted the BiUe into Dalmatian. I know wdl enoi^
it hath been translated by some special peisons into Oothish, Arme-
nian, Ethiopian, and other particnkv dialects; Init did the Q&tfrci)
either of ih« Hebrews or the Ohristians^ either Qreek or Latin, em
deliver it «o tmslated to the generality of pecqde, or vbb it in thdr
eervace, or command it bo to be done, as a thing of general concern-
ment and neoesstty? So £w ia it finom Ihat^ l^t they would never
permit if

I thought you would as little hav^meddled with ithis matter again
SB yon have done with other thii^ of the Hke disadvantage unto
you. For,— 1. 1 told you Buffioiently before what a -vanity it was to
inquire after a irandatien of the Okl Testameoit out (tf the Hebrew
before the Babyltmish captivity, there being no other kmguage bat
that undeiBtood eaa&ti^ the generality of the Jewidi people; and I
then manif<d6ted unto you, and shall do so fisother innnedliately, tbat
tiie translation of the Soriptulie into 6yiiac, which you ixtquire after,
could hate had no other deidgn amongst the Jews in those days than
your keeping of it in Latin hath) - -4iamdy, that tiae people migbt
not understand it: for if you shaH persist to think that the Jews^
before the Babylonkh captnrity at least, had any other vulgar lan-
guage but the Hebrew, you will make all men of understanding
smile at you at an eilaaordinaiy rata Some while after the return
of the pe(^le from their captivity, they began to lose the purity of
their own Umgoe, and most of them understood the Syro-Cfaaldeaii,
wherein about that time some small parts of the Scripture also were
written. In no long process of time a great portion of them living
licattered hi the provinces of the Macedonian empire, and therefore
called HeUeaists, used and GfNike the Gre^ tongue, their own ceasbg
lo be vulgar unto them. AU these, hoik in private and m their



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TBE UlUK SEBVIC& 467

public synagogae woisbip, made use of a tianalatioii of tlie Scrip-
ture into Greeks which was now become their vulgar tongue, and
that made either by the Sev^ity-two elders sent from Jerusalem to
Ptolemy Fhiladelphua, or, which is mcnre probable, by the Jews <^
Alexandria^ unto which city multitudes of them repaired, the nation
being made free of it by ks founder; or, it may be, some while after,
by the priest Onias, who led a great colony of them into Egypt, and
there built them a temple £or their worship So did these HeWews
make use of a translation when ^eir own tongue ceased to be vulgar
unto them. The monster of serving €kKi by rational men with a
tongue whereof they understand never a word, was not yet hatched
The ot&er portion of the people, who dther Hved in Palestine or
those parte q£ the east where the Qreek toi^gue never prevailed into
common use, so socm as their language began to be mixed with the
Syro-Ch&ldaan, aad the purity of it to grow into disuse, made use
constantly of their Taigums» or translations into that tongua Neither
can it be proved but that the Jerusalem Jews understood the Hebiew
well enough until the destruction of the city and temple by Titus.
So that firom the church of the Jews you cannot obtain the least
countenance to your practice. And there lies in Qod's dealing with
them a steong argument and testimony against it; for if Qod him*
self thought meet to intrust his oracles unto his pe(q>le in that lan-
guage which was •tommon unto them all, hath he not taug^ im
that it is his wiU they should still be so continued? And is there
not still the same reason for it as there was at first? 2. Farther:
the practice of the LfiHn churoh is unavoidably against you; for
whereas the Scripture was no part of it written in Latin, whidi was
their vulgar tongue, it was immediatdy, both Old Testament and
New, turned thereinto, and therein used, as in their public worship,
so by private persons of all sorts, upon the encouragement of the
rulers of it And no reaaon of their translation of it, which they
made and had from time immemorial, can possibly be imagined, but
only the indispensable necessity which they apjHrehended of having
the Scrq)ture in a language which the people did genemlly speak
and understand 3. The case was the same in the ancient Qreek
clmrch. The New Testament was originally written in their own
vulgar tongue, which they made use of accordingly ; and as for
the Old, they ccmstaatly used a translation of it into the same
dialect So that It is impossible that we can obtain a clearer suffinage
from the ancient churches^ both Jews and Christians, and these both
of Latins and Qreeks, in any thing, than we have against this custom
of your church. " But these languages," you say, " have ceased to
be vulgar for some thousand years to your kniowledga" " Bona
verba!'' You know mudi, I perceive, yet not so much but that it



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468 A VINDICATION OF THE ANIMADVERSIONS ON FIAT LUX.

is possible you may sometimes fail in your chronological faculty.
Pray, how many thousand years is it, think you, since Christ's birth,
now this year 1663 ; or since the ruin of the Greek or Latin empire,
and therein the corruption of their languages? I believe you will
not find it above three or four thousand at the most, upon your next
calculation ; though I can assure you an ingenious person told me
he thought, from the manner of your speaking, you might guess at
some nine or ten. What then? " Was the Bible,'' say you, "put
into other vidgar tongues when they ceased to be vulgar?" Yes, by
some they were: Jerome translated it into the Dalmatian tongue;
Ulphilas into the Gothish; Beda a great part of it into the Saxon;
and the like, no doubt, was done by othera The eastern countries,
also, to whom the Greek was not so well known, had translations of
their own from the very beginning of their Christianity. And for
the rest, shall the wretched negligence g( men in times of confusion
and ignorance, — such as those were wherein the Greek and Latin
tongues ceased to be vulgar, — prescribe a rule and law unto us of
practice in the worship of God contrary to his own direction, the
nature of the thing itself, and the example of all the churches of
Christ for five hundred years? For besides that in the empire it
was always used and read in the vulgar tongues, those nations that
knew not the two great languages that were commonly spoken there-
in, from the time that they received the Christian faith, took care to
have the Scriptures trandated into their own mother-tongue. So
Chrysostom tells us that the Gospel of John, wherein occasionally
he especially instanceth, was in his days translated into the Syrian,
Egyptian, Indian, Persian, and Ethiopian languages, Houl l on
John. But you say, " Did the church, either of the Hebrews or Chris-
tians, Greek or Latin, ever deliver it translated to the generality of the
people, or use it in their service, or command it so to be done, as a
thing of general concernment? So far is it from that, that they would
never permit it" But you do not sufl&ciently consider what you say.
The Hebrew chiurch had no need so to do. God gave the Scripture
unto it in their own mother-tongue, and that only ; and they had
no reason to translate it out of their knowledge and understanding.
The Oreek church had the New Testament in the same manner, and
the Old they translated, or delivered it so translated by others, unto
the generality of the people, and used it in their service. The Latin
church did so also. The Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testa-
ment also, being originally written in languages unknown vulgarly
imto them, they had them translated into their own common tongue
for the generality of the people, and used that translation in their
public service. The same was the practice of the Syrians and all
other nations of old that had a language in common use peculiar to



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THE LATIN SERVICR 469

tliemselve& All your plea ariseth from the practice of some who,
through ignorance or negligence, provided not for the good and ne-
cessity of the churches of Christ, when, through the changes and
confusions that happened in the world, the Greek and Latin tongues
ceased to be vulgar ; which how many thousand years ago it was, you
may calculate at your next leisure. This is that which in them we
bkune, and in you much more, because you will follow them after
you have been so frequently admonished of your miscarriage there-
in; for you add to your sin by making that which was neglect in
them wilful choice in you, commanding that not to be done which
they only omitted to do.

But you will not leave thb matter. You told us in your " Fiat''
that *' neither Moses, nor any after him, did take care to have the
Scripture turned into Syriaa" I desired to know why they should,
seeing Hebrew was their vulgar tongue, and the Syriac unknown unto
them; which I proved from the saying of the princes of Hezekiah,
when they desired Rabshakeh to " speak unto them in Syriac, which
they understood, and not in the Jews' language in the hearing of the
people," to aflSright and trouble them. This I did for your satisfac-
tion, the thing itself being absolutely out of question, and not in the
least needing any proof amongst those who understand any thing of
this businesa But you yet attempt to revive your first mistake, and
to say somewhat tmto the instance whereby it was rectified; but with
your usual success. Will you, therefore, be pleased to hear yourself
talk, you know not whafc^ in this matter once more ? Thus, then,
you proceed: — "Sir, yotf are mistaken; for the tongue the princes
persuaded Rabshakeh to speak was the Assyrian, his own language, —
which was learned by the gentry in Palestine, as we in England
leam the French, — ^which, although by abbreviation it be called Syriac,
yet it difiered as much from the Jews' language which was spoken
by Christ and his apostles (whereof " Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" is a
part), and was ever since that time called Syrian or Syriac, as French
differs from EnglisL And if you would read attentively, you may
suspect, by the very words of the text, that the Jews' language even
then was not the Hebrew: for it had been a shorter and plainer
expression, and more answerable to their custom so to call it, if it
had been so, than, by a paraphrase, to name it ' The Jews' language;'
which if then it was called Syrian, as afterward it was, then had the
princes reason to call it rather the Jews' language than Syrian, be-
cause that and the Assyrian differed more in nature than appella-
tion, though some difference doubtless there was in the very word
and name, although translators have not heeded to deliver it Shib-
bolet and Sibbolet may differ more in signification than sound; nor
is British and brutish so near in nature as they are in name. And



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470 A VINDICATION OP THE ANIMADVBRMONS ON FIAT LUX.

who knows not that Syria and Asqrria were several kingdcMns, as
likewise were the langciages?'^

I had much ado at first to understand what it is that you would bave
in this discourse; and no wonder, for I am sure you do not understand
yourselE And I am persuaded thaA if you knew how many prodigies
you have poured out in these few lines, you would be amazed at the
product of your own ima^nation. For, — 1. You yet again suf^x)8e
Syriac to have been the vulgar lai^fuage of the Jews in the days of
Hezekiah, a thing that never fell upon the &ncy of any man before
you, bdmg contrary to express Scripture in the testimony b^ore re-
cited, and all the monuments of those days, wh^:Bin the sermons of
the prophets unto the pec^le are recorded in the purest Hebrew;
neither had the people as yet been carried captive out of their own
land, or been mixed with staiangers, so as to have lost their language;
as you imagine, unl^ you thmk that indeed the Hebrew was never
their vulgar tongua 2. Fou suppose the Syrian and Assyrian at
that time to have be^i different languagec^ whereof those who under-
stood the one understood not the other, when they were but one
and the same, called "Vl^, 1^9^ «< The tongue of Aram;** neither was
there ever any other difference between the language of the Assyrians
or Chaldeans, and that which was afterward peculiarly caDed Syriac,
but in some few words and various terminations: and how £Eur this
differed from the Jews' language you have an instance in the names
given by Jacob and Laban to the same heap of witness, Qen xxsi
47, the one calling it ^^., « Oaleed," the otiier, WWnb ni^, « J^aju
sahadutha;'' neither was it at all understoftd by the common people
of the Jews, Jer. v. 15. 3. You suppose that in the language wherein
Babshakeh and the princes conferred, their Syriac was an abbrevia-
tion of Assyriac, because in sound it was so near the other that they
would have him speak in ; so that the Jews, speaking Syriac, when
the princes desired Babshakeh to speak Syriac, they meant another
language, as much differing from that as French from EnglisL But
you are in the dark, and know not how you wander up and down to
no purpose. There is nothing of the words that you pretend to be
an abbreviation the one of the other in the text; nor is there any
such relation between them as you imagine, that they should be
near in sound, though not in nature. Eliakim entreats Babshakeh
that he would speak 'T'PI^, " Aramith, Aramice;'' that is, as the
Greeks and Latins express that people and language " Syriace,'' in
Syriac, — that he would speak the language of Aram ; which language
was spoken also by '^^^?, the king and people of Assyria^ And truly
D'J^., " Aram, "is no abbreviation of ">^^, " Ashur,'' as I supposes.
4. You talk of the length of that expression, " In the Jews' lan-



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 57 of 67)