Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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2. That it is a divine revelation of ^ whole will and mind of Cfod,
as unto all things that are necessary unto his glory and our salvadon.
This it frequently testifieth of itself; and, on the former supposition of
its being such a divine revelation, its testimony must be granted to
be infedlibly true. Both these assertions the apostle expressly con-
joineth, 2 Tim. iii. 15-17. Somewhat they except here in req)ect
of their unwritten traditions, but dare not positively deny that the
Scripture is a sufficient revelation of all things absolutely necessary
unto salvation; indeed, to do so will leave no assurance unto any
man that he can ever know what is necessary unto salvation. But
they have a reserve whereunto they betake themselves on a concession
hereof, — namely, that whatever be contained in it, it cannot be under-
stood but as the sense of it is declared by their church. But this is a
bold, unproved presumption, contrary unto the design of God in giving
us his word, and the experience of all who have been exercised in it

3. The way, manner, and method of this revelation are such as are
suited unto divine wisdom and goodness, whether they please men
or no. It is with reference unto these things that they expatiate and
enlarge themselves in charging the Scripture with obscurity, and un-
fitness thereon to be our only rule and guide; for the Bible, they
say, is a book composed of histories, prophecies, songs, prayers, and
epistles, and is therefore unmeet for any such use or end But
these things are of no consideration in our present case. It is thus
given out immediately by God himself, and therefore every way
answers divine wisdom and goodness; whether men are pleased with
it or no, we are not at all concerned. He who designed it for the
instruction of the church alone knows what was to be the method of
its composure unto that end. And it hath been proved on another
occasion, that, considering the state of the church in its several ages,
the nature of that faith which is to be vnrought and confirmed by this
divine revelation, with the manner of teaching becoming the authority
of God, the holy Scripture could not have been given out imto us in
any other order or method than that wherein it is disposed^

4. On these suppositions, there neither is nor can be more required
of us, in order unto our eternal salvation, but that we understand

^ 6m the " Beason of Faith,*' yoL It.

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nrigkty firmly believe, and yidd obedience unto, the revelation of the
mind and wiU of Ood tluit is made therein. The assurance hereof is
so evidently induded in the forgoing assertions that it needs no
confirmation. Eveiy thought unto the contrary is so injurious unto
the wisdom, goodness, grace, and truth of God, so opposite unto all
the notions of the minds of men, on a supposition of Qod's speaking
unto them, that it ought to be rejected with detestation.

5. There are efficaxsioue aide promised and assured means appointed
by Qod himself to help all that dUigently seek him unto a certain
infallible understanding of his mind in the Scripture, so far as the
knowledge of it is necessary unto our salvation. This, also, I have
lately confirmed in a peculiar discourse.^ These are the heads where-
unto the plea for the guidance of the Scripture in all differences and
divisions about religion may be reduced.

The case being thus plainly stated, the inquiry hereon is, Whethar
of these guides a man that takes care of his own eternal salvation
should betake himself, and firmly adhere unto to the end?

In answer unto this inquiry, I shall prove that no wise man who
feareth Gk>d, and is careful of the eternal condition of his own soul,
can choose the church of Bome for this guide, for^[oing the other of
the Scripture, with the divine aids promised and given for the under-
standing thereo£

The person of whom I speak I suppose to be a wise man; that is,
one who prefers things eternal unto those that are temporal, so as
not to be ensnared by earthly interests and advantages unto the for-
feiture of his interest in things above, and will be careful not to be
imposed on by men who design their own advantage in what they
would persuade him unto. He who is otherwise minded is a fooL
He is also one that feareth Qod, and therefore is real and in good
earnest in religion, as desiring to please him in all things; for there
are many who give the world no small disturbance about religious
concerns who do on all occasions manifest that they have little or no
regard unto God in what they say or do. But in the persons whom
I address unto, I suppose that they really take care, above all other
things, of the eternal salvation of their souls. And I shall not deal
with them by abstruse arguments nor by testimonies of men, that
may be bandied up and down on the one side and the other, but by
such plain reasonings as are accommodated unto the common under-
standing of all sober, sedate, rational persons, who own the principles
of Christian religion, which have their force from the general usage
of mankind in things of an alike nature, — the common natural prin-
ciples of men's minds, where they are not vitiated and depraved;
with the experience of what they have found already in any duties

1 See the " Caofles, Wajs, and Means of Understanding the Mind of God," yoL iv.

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of reli^oufl wordiip. Indeed, if we could but prevail with men to
be perBuaded that eveiy man must believe for himself, and obey fior
himself and give an aooomit for himself this di£krenoe would be at
an end; for the dioioe of the church o£ Rome to be the guide in-
quired aftar, is nothing but the putting of the care of saving our
souls unto otheiSy who will not be ible to answer for us when our
trial shall come.

And this subject in particular I have dioeen at present to insi^
upon, for two reasons: —

1. Because, as was before observed, thoee who at present do -pletd
tks intered of Ihis church among us do dedine what they can all
particular oontroversies, and, under various notions, betake th^naelves
to this alone, about an authoritative guide and leader of all Quis-
tians, which they pretend their churdi to be. They do not, in their
projection for proselytes, go to them and enter into disputes about
teansubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, adoration of images, or
the like, no, nor yet about the pope's in&llilnlity; but, supposing
themselves to be greatly advantaged by the differences in religion
that are among us, which usually they enlarge upon, without either
truth or modesty, imder a concealment of greater differences among
themselves, they insist only on tiie necesdty of such a guide, whidi
they pretend their church alone to be. Hereby have they i»evailed
on many, who, <m one account or other, do think th^nselves unme^
any longer to take care of their own salvation; and whoi once tb^
have prevailed herein, there is nothii^ so horrid, nothing so wicked,
that they cannot impose on the consciences of their proselytes. Tbej
will not now scruple or stick at all at those things which they would
have dreaded to have thought of whilst they had the care of them-
selves in any measure upon them. Not one man of a thousand who
supposeth that he hath himself and his own soul in charge, that he
must give an account of and for himself will venture on those ways
and practices which they will with great satisfaction rudi into under
their conduct

2. Because of the strange ways they have lately taken to put this
pretence into use and practice, and to take u^ all under their con-
duct Pretending unto the guidance of our souk in the things of
God, they have attempted to take us into their power as unto our
lives, liberties, laws, and all olher our concernments in this world;
which whosoever doth unlawfully forfeits all his own. And a suffi-
cient indication it is of what guidance we were like to meet withal,
when way was to be made unto it by fire, confusion, blood, massacres,
and sedition.

Should there be a school erected, pretending unto an easy certain
way of teaching all sciences, divine and human; should it pretend a

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grant that nothing of this nature should be taught or learned but in
and by it; yet, if I saw the posts of the house hung like shambles
with Uie limbs of slaught^ed persons, — ^if the ground about it be
strewed with the bones and ashes of m«i burned to death, — ^here lying
one strangled, there another stabbed, a third poisoned, all for no
other cause but either because they would not submit to the teaching
thereof, or would not learn things foolish and wicked, — I should avoid
such a school and its power so far as I were able. But yet, because
there hath of late among us a great accession been made really unto
this guidance by persons formerly professing the Protestant rdigion,
I shall a little inquire into the causes of it, or the means whereby it
bath been brought about; and I shall not fear to say, that, as unto
the most of them who have relinquished the Protestant religion, they
are these that follow: —

1. Aprofotmd ignorance of the internal powers of religion, with
an utter want of aU experience of them in ^emselves, makes them
an easy prey to seducers. Persons who have neVer had any concern^
ment in religion beyond the outside solemnity of it, with some no-
tions and opinions about the doctrines of it, are easily '' tossed to and
fro'' from one religion unto another, or unto none at all, through the
" cunning sleights of men who lie in wait to deceive."

When men have only a '^ form of godliness'' in the profession of
the truth, but know nothing of the " power of it," it is an uncertain
accident whether they persevere in that profesaon or no. There are
internal powers of true religion which are efficacious on the minds of
men to enlighten them, to purify them, and give them liberty from
the adverse powers of darkness, vanity, and bondage unto sin. Where
men have experience of them in their own hearts, there and tiiere
alone, if a vigorous impression unto the contrary do befall them, will
they be constant in the profession of the trutL The success of our
Boman emissaries is confined almost unto that sort of persons who,
under the outward profession of the Protestant religion, have been
totally ignorant of the virtue and power of the truth contained therein.

2. Wickedness of lifCy taking shelter in the promises of eternal
security which that diurch, with presumptuous confidence, tenders
unto all that will give up themselves unto her conduct, though in the
last moments of their lives, gains tiiem a multitude of proselytea
This engine they apply unto many when they are leaving the world,
even unto such as, having lived in sin and ignorance, are ready to
receive condign punishment for their villanies, deceiving them of
those few minutes which might be improved in seeking after evan-
gelical £Edth and repentance. But this is the least use they make of
it There are in the world, among those that are called I^testants,
mighty men, nobles, men of dignity and revenue, who live in their

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sins, and are resolved so to do; yet are thej not able by any means
to secure their consciences from troublesome fears of eternal miseries
that will ensue on the course wherein they are. By all crafty ways
of access and compliance^ the fectors of this church do inffinnrte
themselves, or by others axe introduced, into the acquaintance of
this sort of persons; and the first thing they offer imto them is al>-
solute security of eternal salvation, if they will but relinquish heresy,
wherein it is impossible they should ever be saved, and betake them-
selves unto the conduct of the church of Boma Of the change of
their lives, the relinquishment of their sms, of repentance from dead
works, of the life of (Jod, and universal obedience therein, there are
no words between them. Many of these persons, who are resolved
beforehand rather to part with all the religion in the world than witk
one of their lusts and sins, do readily embrace the composition offaned;
for really that which is tendered unto them is a consistency between
living in sin and assured going imto heaven, which before Uiey knev
not that they could be reconciled. For however they shall liv^ for
the future, suppose in the sins of adultery, fornication,. pro£ane swear-
ing, luxury, drunkenness, or the like, the church will take care that,
by confessions, masses, and purgatory, they shall be undoubtedly
saved. At this door have entered great numbers of '^ unclean beasts,"
unto the increase of the herd, who often prove the most forward zea-
lots for the Catholic cause.

3. Secular interests and advantages, accommodated unto all soiis
of persons, are another means of their prevalency. There are no sorts
of persons, from the highest to the lowest, that come within Uieir
walk and compass, or unto whom they can have acpess with the lea^
probability of success, unto whom they have not in a readiness to
propose some secular advantages suited unto their state, conditioD,
inclinations, and abilities. Oreat rnen shall have &vour and coue-
spondences with potentates abroad, besides a principal interest in that
alteration in national affidrs which they doubt not but th^ duJl
introduce. Scholars shall be used and preferred ; at least, wh^i thej
have any eminency in abilities, they shall not want esteem and ad-
vancement Mechanics shall be employed, and the poorest one way
or other provided for. And for all sorts of discontented persons who
may be of any use unto their interest, they have the refrige of their
monasteries for their entertainment And is it any wonder if, in this
degenerate age, wherein the most of men do openly and visibly de-
clare a predominancy in their minds and affections of things carnal
and temporal, above those that are spiritual and eternal, many be
ensnared by these promises, which either shall be made good unto
them, or at least are sufficient to keep them in expectation nntQ they
are engaged beyond recovery?

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4. Many, it is feared, fall under the dreadfbl account given of
Ood's righteous dealings with those who obstinately live in sin, under
the profession of the truth, 2 Thesa il 10-12: " Because they re-
ceived not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, Qod shall
send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie; that they
all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure
in unrighteousnesa" This is that which we have more cause to fear,
with respect unto this nation, than all the artifices of the Roman

Lastly, How powerful and prevalent the last voice of this church
paay prove 1 know not The motto of some potentates on their
great guns is, " Vox ultima regum," — " The last voice of kings :" that
of this church is, " Fire and fegot;" wherewith I pray and hope that
they shall never more be heard to speak in England.

Allowing them these advantages, I shall now prove that no wise
or sober man, who takes care of his own salvation, can give up him-
self to the conduct of the church of Rome in his choice of r^igion,
then when there are the most abounding contests about the truth
and the right way of its profession, which is supposed [to be] oiur
present case.

In my first reason I shall proceed no farther but to render this
pretended guide suspected with all wise and sober men; for it will
be granted, I suppose, that we ought thoroughly to consider who or
what that guide is whereunto we do absolutely resign the disposal of
all our spiritual concernments, without power of revocation.

If any men were to make such an absolute trust of their lives,
estates, and liberties into the hands of another man, or of other men,
putting them all absolutely out of their own power, certainly they
would think it their wisdom and interest to consider aright who and
what they are unto whom they do so fully and absolutely resign
themselves and all that they have. And if they have any just sus-
picion of their honesty or faithfiilness, or that they seek themselves,,
or their own advantage, in taking this trust upon them, they will not
easily be induced to resign up their all unto them ; yea^ the more
earnest they are to persuade them, the more will they suspect that
there is knavery in the cause. How much more carefiil ought we to
be in the choosing a guide into whose power and disposal we must
resign all the eternal concernments of our souls! — ^which all men do
who absolutely give up the conduct of themselves unto the church of
Rome in all matters of religion; for, notwithstanding all their pleas
of a sure and safe bank for the consciences of men, there are great
presumptions that they will break at last, and leave them who have
intrusted them unto eternal beggaiy.
- I shall give but one reason, which renders this pretended guide so

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justly suspected as that no wise man can commit himself theremito
in things of this importance. And this is, the prodigious worldly
secular advantages which the church of Rome hath made mito itself
by this pretence of being the only guide of all Christians in mattexs
of religion ; for this pretence is the sole foundation of the whole
Papacy, which, when tiie sand of it is removed, must i^ to the ground.
And we may consider both what they have obtained by it, and how
they use their acquisition. For, —

1. By virtue of this pretence alone they have erected their
popedom, obtamed principalities and sovereignties, possessed them-
selves of the principal revenues of most nations of Europe, have
heaped up huge treasures of wealth, wherewith they maintain innu-
merable persons who have nothing to do but by all arts to promote
their interest, especially that numerous society which is grown at
this day the pest and terror of the world. These things are evident
in other nations; they were so formerly in thi& And in all the zeal
which of late they have pretended for the conversion, as they call it,
of this nation, it is legibly written in all the parts of their design
and the whole management of it, that it was power, dominion, wealth,
and revenue unto themselves, that they intended; this place, that
dignity, and the other revenue, and the carnally-sweet dominion
over the consciences of all sorts of persons, were in their eye.

2. We may consider what use they make of these secular advan-
tages and revenues, which they have obtained merely by virtue of
this pretence. And it may be said with modesty th^ these things
were never forced to be wickedly serviceable unto the lusts of men
among the heathens themselves more than they are and have beai
among all sorts of men in the church of Rome. Ambition, avarice,
pride, luxury, sensuality, cruelty, are the deities that they sacrifice
the spoils of the souls and consciences of men unto. There is no sort
of wickedness, not the highest and most provoking, not the most vile
and sordid, that human nature is capable of, but mtdtiplied instances
may be given of the perpetration of them, by the advantage which
they make of this pretence.

This consideration, I say, is sufficient unto all wise men to render
this pretended guide justly suspected, and to bring the vagabond
unto the strictest and severest examination that the law and word of
God doth direct unto in such casea

(1.) It is so, on the account of reason and common usage, amongst
men in cases of an alike natura If it be notoriously known and
evident that any sort of persons, whatever else they seem to be or
act, do make great and unaccountable advantages unto themselves
by any trusts that are committed unto them, pretending nothing in
the meantime but the good of them who so intrust them^ a Mrise

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man will not absohitelj give up the dispoeal of liiniself atid all his
concerns unto such persons. Yea, when men are more than ordinarily
urgent to have such trusts committed unto them, we do ordinarily
inquire what is their interest in this matter of care and trouble that
makes them so earnest And if we find that they have made their
own advantages on all such occasions, we shall not be too forward to
give up unto them all that we have; especially if the resignation of
ourselves and our concerns, desired by tiiem, be such as we shall
never more have the disposal of any thing in our own power, nor
shall they be accotmtable for any thing they do thereon. It may be
you will say, those who desire this great trust to be reposed in them
are in all other things of virtue and piety most eminent above others.
But what if, by various ways and means, they discover themselves to
be for the most part of the very worst of men ? It will assuredly
be said that such a kind of trust as that mentioned would be ridi-
culous, and was never made by any wise man, fools and madmen
being only meet to be confined unto it

Yet such is the trust that the church of Rome requireth that we
should commit unto her, and that in affairs of infinitely greater
importance than all other earthly concerns; for she would have us
absolutely resign up our souls and consciences, with all our eternal
interests, unto her conduct and guidance, without any reservation for
the use of our own light, reason, knowledge, or faith, and without
power of revocation, on pain of damnation. In the meantime, it is
evident and notorious that by virtue of this pretence she hath erected
the popedom, obtained principalities and dominion, endowed herself
with the principal revenues of the nations, and erected a supremacy
over kings and kingdoms, to be disposed of at their pleasura Is it
not the duty of a wise man, when any of these persons are impor-
tunate with him to forsake the Scripture and his own understanding,
with all the experience which ever he had of the power of religion,
and to give up himself absolutely unto their conduct, to inquire what
is the interest of these men in these things which makes them thus
importunate ?

And if this appear openly to be an increase or confirmation of
their secular advantages, he will say that this is a trust fit only for
them to make whom darkness, ignorance, the love of sin, and a
vicious conversation, have rendered spiritual fools and bedlams, that
can in nothing guide themselves. Especially he will do so, when he
shall find that these high pretenders to be the only guides of the
souls and consciences of other men, do for the most part walk in
paths themselves that go down to the chambers of death; that they
are so far firom giving examples of Christian meekness, humility,
self-denial, faith, love, or real holiness, — from giving a just represer^-

VOL. xrv. *32

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tftdon of ChtH* in thd iimge of Qod on themsdvoi^ — as that in many
greftt, notaUe^ prodigioiis instMioes they represent the devil, with aU
his malice, cruelty, and hknd, onto the w(»ld«

(2.) There is that which doth hereon yet fiEuiher increafle a just
toqfucion of tiiia pretended guide; and this is the vfay o/ovr Lord
Je8UsChriti,ejid of his apostles und^ him and after him, — unto whom
that oenduct of our souls which the pope and churdi of Bome do
now lay claim unto was really committed by Qod, even the Father.
It is known that oinr Lord Jesus Christ himself^ though in his divine
person he was the sovereign po68esK)r of heaven and earth, ye^ in
that ministiy wherein he took the guidance of men's souls, he ob-
tained nothing, possessed nothing beyond food and raiment, nor mada
the least outward advantage by any good that he did or by any mi^
raoies that he wrought This state in general belonged mito his
humiliation, and was a* part of his sufferings : bat withal it was
ehosen by himself for this end,-^^-^ convince and satisfy ibe souls of
men that he designed nothing in all his instruction and giddanoe o{
them but the glory of Ood in their eternal welfare; gaining nothing
tmto hims^ but reproadies, persecution, and the crosa llus he
did OS knowii^ that there was that glory, beauty, power, and ns^ul-
ness in the tnrth wherein he instiucted men, that nothing was out-
wardly needful to give it an effectual entrance into their minds but
only to ddiver them from prejudices, which all self-advantages made

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 60 of 67)