Andrew Thomson John Owen.

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every text in Scripture is easy to be understood, nor that all the
matter of it is easy to be apprehended; we know that there are things
in it "hdrd to be understood," things to exercise the minds of the best
and wisest of men unto diligence, and, when they have done their
utmost, unto reverence. But this is that we mean by " plainly:" —
The whole will and mind of God, with whatever is needful to be
known of him, is revealed in the Scripture without such ambiguity
or obscurity as should hinder the Scripture from being a revelation
of him, his mind and will, to the end that we may know him, and



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40 ANDCA07IBSIONS ON A TBEATISE

live unto hinu To Bay that Qod would not do this, would not make
such a revelation (besides the reflection that it casts on his goodness
and wisdom), is indeed to say that he would not do that which we
say he woidd da The truth is, all the harangues we meet withal
about the obscurity of the Scripture, are direct arraignments of the
wisdom and goodness of God. And if I w^e worthy to advise my
Roman Catholic countrymen, I would persuade them to desist from
this enterprise, if not in piety, at least in policy; for I can assure
them, as I think I have done already, that all their endeavours for
the extenuation of the worth, excellency, fulness, sufficiency of the
Scripture, do exceedingly confirm Protestants in the truth of their
present persuasion, which they see cannot be touched but by such
horrible applications as they detest

4. But yet they say, " Scripture is not so clear but that it needs
interpretation, and Protestants have none to interpret it, so as to
make it a means of ending differences."' I confess, the interpretation
of Scripture is a good and necessary work; and I know that He who
" was dead, and is alive for ever,"' continues to give gifts unto men,
according to his promise, to enable them to interpret the Scripture
for the edification of his body, the church. If there were none of
these interpreters among the Protestants, I wonder whence it is come
to pass that his comments on and interpretations of Scripture, who
is most hated by Romanists of all the Protestants that ever were in
the world, are so borrowed and used (that I say not stolen) by so
many of them; and that, indeed, what is praiseworthy in any of their
church, in the way of exposition of Scripture, is either borrowed from
Protestants or done in imitation of them. If I am called on for
instances in this kind, I shall give them, — I am persuaded, to some
men's amazement who are less conversant in these things; but we
are beside the matter. " It is of an infallible interpreter, in whose
expositions and determinations of Scripture sense all Christians are
obliged to acquiesce; and such a one you have none.*' I confess we
have not^ if it be such a one as you intend, whose expositions and
interpretations we must acquiesce in, not because they are true, but
because they are hi& We have infallible expositions of the Scripture
in all necessary truths, as we are assured from the Scripture itself;
but an infallible expositor, into whose authority our Mik should be
resolved, besides the Scripture itself, we have none. Nor do I think
they have any at Rome, whatever they talk of to men that were
never there: por, I suppose, do they believe it themselves; for
indeed if they do, I know not how they can be freed from being
thought to be strangely distempered, if not stark mad. ^For, not to
talk of the Tower of London, this I am sure of, that we have whole
cart-loads of comments and expositions on the Scripture, written by



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ENTITLBD FIAT LUX. 41

membeis of the church, men of all orders and degrees; and he that
has cast an eye upon them knows that a great part of their large
volumes are spent in confuting the expositions of one another, and
those that went before them. Now, what a madness is this, or child-
ishness, above that of very children, to lie swaggering and contending
one with another, before all the world, with fallible mediums about
the sense of Scripture, and giving expositions which no man is bound
to acquiesce in any fEurther than he sees reason, whilst all this while
they have one amongst them who can interpret all; and that with
such an authority as all men are bound to rest in, and contend no
farther! And the farther mischief of it is, that of all the rest this
man is always silent as to exposition of Scripture, who alone is able
to " part the fray." There be two things which I think, verily, if I
were a Papist, I should never like in the pope, because methinks
they argue a great deal of want of good natura The one is (that
we treat about), that he can see his children so fiercely wrangle about
the sense of Scripture, and yet will not give out what is the infallible
meaning of every place^ at least that is controverted, and so stint the
strife amongst them, seeing it seems he can if he would; and the
other is, that he suffers so many souls to lie in purgatory when he
may let them forth if he please, and, that I know of, hath received
no order to the contrary. But the truth is, that neither the Roman-
ists nor we have any in&llible living judge, in whose determination
of the sense of Scripture all men should be bound to acquiesce, upon
the account of his authority. This is all the difference: we openly
profess we have none such, and betake us to that which we have,
which is better for us; they, pretending they have, yet acting con-
stantly as if they had not, and as indeed they have not, maintain a
perpetual inconsistency and contradiction between their pretensions
and their practica The Holy Ghost, speaking in and by the Scrip-
ture, using the ministry of men furnished by himself with gifts and
abilities, and lawfully called to the work, for the oral declaration or
other expositions of his mind, is that which the Protestants cleave
unto for the interpreting of the Scripture, which itself discovers when
infallible; and if Papists can tell me of a better way, I will quickly
embrace it I suppose I may, upon the considerations we have had
of the reasons offered to prove the insufficiency of Scripture to settle
us in the truth, aud to end our differences, condude their insufficiency
to any such purpose. We know the Scripture was given us to settle
us in the truth, and to end our differences; we know it is "profitable"
to that end and purpose, and ''able to make us wise to salvation." If
we find not these ^ects wrought in ourselves, it is our own fault;
and I desire that for hereafter we may bear our own blame, without
such reflections on the holy word of the infinitely blessed Qod.



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42 ANIMADVERSIONS ON A TREATISE

IX. We are come at length unto the pope, of whom we are told
that ''he is a good man, one that seeks nothing but our good, that
never did us harm, but has the care and inspection of us committed
unto him by Christ'' For my part I am glad to hear such news of
him, and should be more glad to find it to be true. Our forefsithers
and predecessors in the faith we profess, found it otherwise. All the
harm that could be done unto them, by ruining their families, de-
stroying their estates, imprisoning and torturing their persons, and,
lastly, burning their bodies in fire, they received at his hands. K
the alteration pretended be not from the shortening of his power, but
the change of his mind and will, I shall be very glad to hear of it
For the present, I confess, I had rather take it for granted, whilst he
is at this distance, than see him trusted with power for the trial of
his will. I never heard of much of his repentance for the blood of
those thousands that hath been shed by his authority, and in his
cause; which makes me suspect he may be somewhat of the same
mind still as he was. Time was when the very worst of popes
exhausted more treasure out of this nation, to spend it abroad to
their own ends, than some are willing to grant to the best of kings,
to spend at home for their good& It may be he is changed as to
this design also, but I do not know it, nor is any proof offered of it
by our author. Let us deal plainly one with another, and, without
telling us that " the pope never did us harm,'' (which is not the way
to make us believe that he will not, because it miakes us suspect that
all we have suffered from him is thought no harm,) let him tell us
how he will assure us that if this good pope get us into his power
again, he will not bum us, as he did our forefathers, unless we submit
our consciences unto him in all things; that he will not find out ways
to draw the treasure out of the nation, nor absolve subjects from their
allegiance, nor excommunicate or attempt the deposition of our
kings, or the giving away of their kingdoms, as he has done in former
days. That these things he hath done we know; that he hath re-
pented of them, and changed his mind thereupon, we know not To
have any thing to do with him, whilst he continues in such distem-
pers, is not only against the principles of reli^on, but of common
prudence also. For my part I cannot but fear, until I see security
tendered of this change in the pope, that all the good words that are
given us concerning him are but baits to inveigle us into his power;
and, to tell you the truth, " terrent vestigia." How the pope employs
himself in seeking our good, which our author paints out unto us, I
know not ; when I see the effects of it, I shall be thankful for it In
the meantime, being so great a stranger to Rome as I am, I must
needs say, I know nothing that he does but seek to destroy us body
and souL Our author pleads, indeed, ths^t " the care and inspection



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ENTITLED FUT LUX. .4a

of our condition is committed to him by Christ :'' but he attempts
not to prove it, which I somewhat marvel at; for having professedly
deserted the old way of pleading the Catholic cause and interest
(whichi presimie he did upon conviction of its insufficiency), — ^whereas
he is an ingenious person, he could not but know that " Pasce oves
meas, tu es Petrus, tibi dabo daves," are as weak parts of the old
plea as any made use of, belonging nothing at aU to the thing where-
unto they are applied, — ^it is somewhat strange that he would substi-
tute no new proofs in their room. But it seems it is not every one's
hap, with him of old, to want opinions sometimes, but no arguments.
When he has got proofe to his purpose, we will again attend unto
him: in the meantime, in this case shall only mind him, that the
taking for granted, in disputations, that which should principally be
proved, has got an ill name amongst learned men, bein^ commonly
called " begging/'

X. The last principle which I have observed difi^ing its influences
throughout the whole discourse is, that " the devotion of Catholics
far transcends that of Protestants; their preaching also" (which I
forgot to mention before) " is fer to be preferred above that of these ;
and for their religion and worship, it is liable to no just exception/'
I desire that our author woidd but a little call to mind that parable
of our Saviour about the two men that w^nt up into the temple to
pray. To me this discourse smells rank of the Pharisee, and I wish
that we might all rather strive to grow in faith, love,- charity, self-
denial, and universal conformity unto our Lord Jesus, than to bristle
up and cry, " Stand farther off, for I am holier than thou." In the
meantime, for the respect I bear him, I entreat our author to speak
no more of this matter, lest some angry Protestant, or some fanatic,
should take occasion to talk of old matters, and rip up old sores, or
give an accoimt of the present state of things in the church of Rome ;
all which were a great deal better covered. If he will not take my
advice, he must thank himself for that which will assuredly follow.
I must also say, by the way, that that devotion which consists so
much, as our author makes it to do, in the sweeping of churches and
tinkling of bells, in counting of beads and knocking of breasts, is of
very little value with Protestants, who have obtained an experience
of the excellency of spiritual communion with God in Christ Jesua
Now, whether these parts of the profession and practice of his church,
— which he is pleased to undertake, not only the vindication, but the
adorning of, — be liable to just exception or no, is the last part of our
work to consider, and which shall in its proper place be done accord-
ingly.

As I before observed, he that shall but cursorily run through this
discourse will quickly find that these Mse suppositions, ungrounded



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44 AKIMADTXBSIONS ON A TREATISE

presumptions, and unwarrantable pretensions^ are things which are
disposed of to be the foundations, nerves, and sinews of all the
rhetoric that it is covered and wrought witiial, and that the bare
drawing of them out leaves all the remaining flourishes in a more
scattered condition than the Sibyl's leaves, which no man can gath^
up and put together, to make up any significancy at all as to the
design in hand. I might, then, well spare all farther labour, and here
put a period to. my progress; and indeed would do so, wore I secure
I had none to d^ with but ingenuous and judicious readers, that
have some tolerable acquaintance at least with the estate of religion
of old and at present in Europe, and with the concernment of their
own souls in these things. But that no pretence may be left unto
any that we avoided any thing material in our author, having passed
through his discoiuBO unto the end of it, I shall once more return to
the beginning, and pass through its severals, leaving behind, in the
way, such animadversions as are any way needful to rescue such as
have not a mind to be deceived, from the snares and cobwebs of hi3
oratory.



CHAPTER IIL

Motive, matter, and method of our author's hook.

What remains of our author's preface is spent in the pursuit of
an easy task, in all the branches of it To condemn the late mis-
carriages in these nations, to decry divisions in religion, with their
pernicious consequences, to commend my Lord Chancellor's speech,
are things that have littie difficulty in them, to exercise the skill of
a man pretending so highly as our author doth. He may secure
himself that he will find no opposition about these things from any
man in his right wits. No other man, certainly, can be so forsaken of
religion and humanity as not to deplore the woful undertakings, and
more woful issues, of sundry things whereunto the concernments of
religion have been pleaded to give countenanca The rancour also of
men, and wrath against one another on the same accounts, with the
fruits which they bring forth all the world over, are doubtiess a
burden to the minds of all that love truth and peace. To prevent a
retumal to the former, and remove or at least allay the latter, how
excellentiy the speech of that great counsellor, and the things pro-
posed in it, are suited, all sober and ingenuous men must needs ac-
knowledge. Had this, then, been the whole design of this preface, I
had given this book many an amen before I had come to the end.



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX / 45

But our author having wholly another mark in his eye, another busi-
ness in hand, I should have thought it a litUe uncivil in him to make
my Lord Chancellor's speech seemingly subservient to that which he
never intended, never aimed at, which no word or expression in it leads
unto, but that I find him afterward so dealing with the words of God
himsel£ His real work in this compass of words is to set up a blind,
or give a fieJse alarm, to arrest and stay his unwary reada:, whilst he
prepares hun for an entertainment which he thought not o£ The
pretence he flourisheth over, both in the preface and sundry other
parts of his discourse, is the hatefulness of our animosities in and
about religion, their dismal effects, with the necessity and excellency
of moderation in things of that nature; the real work in hand is a
persuasive unto Popery, and unto that end (not of moderation or
forbearance) are all his arguments directed Shoidd a man go to him
and say, '^Sir, I have read your learned book, and find that heats and
contests about differences in religion are things full of evil, and such
as tend unto fexther misery; I am therefore resolved quietly to per-
sist in the way of Protestancy wherein I am, without ever attempt-
ing the least violence against others for their dissent firom me, but
only with meekness and quietness defend the truth which I profess;"
— ^I presume he will npt judge his design half accomplished towards
audi a man, if at all Nay, I dare say, with some confidence, that in
reference to such a one, he would say to himself, " Operam et oleum
perdidL" And therefore doth he wisely tell us, p. 12, that his matter
is perceived by the prefixed general contents of his chapters. His de-
sign, which he calls his method, he confesseth that he doth purposely
conceal; but the truth is, it is easily discoverable, there being few
pages in the book that do not display it

. The reader, then, must understand that the plam English of all
his commendations of moderation, and all his exhortations to a re-
linquishment of those false lights and principles which have led men
to a disturbance of the public peace, and ensuing calamities, is, that
Popery is the only religion in the world, and that centring therein is
the only means to put an end to our differences, heats, and troubles.
Unless this be granted, it will be very hard to find one grain of sin-
cerity in the whole discourse; and if it be, no less difficult to find so
much of truth. So that, whatever may be esteemed suitable to the
fancies of any of them whom our author courts in his address, those
who know any thing of the holiness of God and the gospel, of that
reverence which is due to Christ and his word, and wherewith all the
concernments ot religion ought to be managed, will scarcely judge
that that blessed Fountain of light and truth will immix his pure
beams and blessings with such crafty, worldly, sophistical devices,
or such frothy ebullitions of wit and fancy, as this discourse is stuffed



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46 ANIHADVEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

withal. These are things that may be fit to entangle unstable spirited
who, being regardless of eternity, and steering their course according
to every blast of temptation that fills their lusts and carnal pleasures,
ore as ready to change their religion (if men can make any change
in or of that which in reality they neither leave nor receive, but only
sport themselves to and firo with the cloud and shadow of it) as they
are their clothes and fashions. Those who have had experience of
the power and efficacy of that religion which they have professed, as
to all the ends for which religion is of Qod revealed, will be Httle
moved with the stories, pretences, and diversions of this discourse.

Ejiowing, therefore, our author's design (and which we shall have
occasion to deal with him about throughout his treatise), which is
to take advantage, firom the late miscarriages amongst us, and the
differences that are in the world in religion, to persuade men, not
indeed and ultimately to mutual moderation and forbearance, but
to a general acquiescency in Roman Catholicism, I shall not here
farther speak unto it The five heads of his matter may be briefly
run over as he proposeth them, p. 13; with whose consideration I
shall take my leave of his preface.

1. The first is, " That there is not any colour of reason or just title
to move us to quarrel and judge one another with so much heat
about religion." Indeed there is not, nor can there be; no man was
ever so mad as to suppose there could be any reason or just title for
men to do evil: to quarrel and judge one another with heats about
religion is of that nature. But if, placing himself to keep a decorum
amongst Protestants, he woidd insinuate that we have no reason to
contend about religion, as having lost all title unto it by our depar-
ture from Rome, I must take leave unto this general head to put in
a general demurrer; which I shall afterward plead to and vindicate.

2. His second is, " That all things are so obscure, that no man in
prudence can so far presume of his own knowledge as to set up him-
self a guide and leader in religion," I say so too ; and suppose the
words as they lie, whatever be intended in them, are keenly set
against the great papal pretension: whatever he may pretend, we
know the pope sets up himself to be a guide to all men in religion;
and if he do it not upon a presumption of his own knowledge, we
know not on what better grounds he doth it. And though we wholly
condemn men's setting up themselves to be guides and leaders to
their neighbours, yet if he intend that all things are so obscure,
that we have no means to come to the knowledge of the truth con-
cerning Qod and his mind, so far as it is our duty to know it, and,
therefore, that no man can teach or instruct another in that know-
ledge, — I say, as before, we are not yet of his mind : whether we shall
be or no, the process of our discourse will show.



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. 47

S. He adds, ^' That no sect liath any advantage at all over another,
nor all of them together over Popery/' Yes; they that have the
truth, wherein they have it, have advantage against all others that
have it not: and so Protestancy hath advantage over Popery. And
here the pretext or visor of this Protestant begins to turn aside; in
the next head it quite falls firom him, —

That is, 4. " That all the several kinds of religion here in England
are equally innocent to one another; and Popery, as it stands in
opposition to them, is absolutely innocent and unblamable to them
alL" I am little concerned in the former part of these words, con-
cerning the several kinds of reli^on in England, having undertaken
the defence of one only, — ^namely, Protestancy. Those that are de-
parted firom Protestancy so far as to constitute another kind of reli-
gion, as to any thing fi*om me, shall plead for themselves. However,
I wish that aU parties in England were all equally innocent to one
another, or that they would not be willing to make themselves equally
nocent But the latter part of the words contfidns, I promise you, a
very high undertaking : " Popery is innocent, absolutely innocent
and unblamable to them alL" I fear we shall scarce find it so
when we come to the trial I confess I do not like this pretence of
absolute innocency and unblamableness. I suppose they are men
that profess Popery, and I do know that Popery is a religion or pro-
fession of men's finding out How it should come to be so absolutely
innocent on a sudden, I cannot imagine; but we will leave this until
we come to the proof of it, taking notice only, that here is a great
promise made xmto his noble and ingenuous readers, that cannot
advantage his cause if he be not able to make it good. The close

is,—

5. " That as there neither is nor can be any rational motive for
disputes and animosities about matters of reli^on ; so is there an
indispensable moral cause obHging us to moderation," eta But this,
as I observed before, though, upon the first view of the sign hanging
up at the door, a man would guess to be the whole work that was
doing in the house, is indeed no part of his business; and is there-
fore thrust out at the postern in two short leaves, the least part of
them in his own words, after the spending of three hundred and sixty-
four pages in the pursuit of his proper design. But seeing we must
look over these things again, in the chapters assigned to their adorn-
ing, we may take our leave of them at present and of his preface
together.



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48 ANIUADVEBSIOBS ON A TBEA.T1SE

CHAPTER IV.

Contests about religion and reformation, schoolmtsa, etc

Chap. V The title of this chapter was proposed; the pursuit ot it
now ensues. The first paragraph is a declamation about sundry
things which have not much blameworthy in them. Their common
weakness is, that they are common. They tend not to the further-
ance of any one thing more than another, but are such as any party
may flourish withal, and use to their several ends as they please.
That *' desire of honour and applause in the world'" hath influenced
the minds of men to great and strange imdertakings, is certain;
that it should do so is not certain nor true: so that when we treat
of rehgion, if we renounce not the fundamental principle of it in



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 6 of 67)