Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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by him wotdd have given unto them. The Pope and Mohammed,
who have since pretended unto the same oonduot <^ men's minds in
religion which was intrusted originally with Him whom the Father
sealed, knowing that what they had to teach of their own, and to
lead men into, had no glory, beauty, eivideaoe^ nor use in itself have
wisely betaken themselves unto the ways of fraud and force, to im-^
pose tiieir doctrine on the consciences of men, with this bait and
all^urement, that what profit and advantage they make unto th^n*
selves by the conduct whidi they have assumed, others, aeccmling to
their prc^orticm, shall be sharers therein.

The holy aposties succeeded untoHhe personal minisiary of our
Lotd Jesus Christ, as unto this conduct of the souls of men. Such
power was oominitted unto them by him who sent them, '^ even as
the Father sent him.'' Sudi assurance was there in their condu<^
through infidlible inqoration, and the presence of the Holy Ghost
with tiiem in an extraordinary maon^, as that all meaa were bound
to ^ve up themselves nnto their conduct and guidanca Howbeit
they ji»dged that there was no duty more incumbent on them than
to make it e^i<knt ante all the world that they neither sought nor
would accept of any temporal advantages unto themaelv^es by the
trust reposed in tiiem^ but were contented that their portion iu this

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world should lie in aQ the extremities and calamitieB of it And
this they willingly subnntted unto, that all men might be encouraged
to trust them in thdr everlasting affiurs, when th^ saw what losers
they were by it in this world, without desire, hope, or expectation of
any better condition.

The church of Borne lays daim to the very same authcaity over
and conduct of the consdences of men in rd^on as were committed
unto Jesus Christ and his apostles. It is as safe, as they pretend,
for a man to cast off the authority and institutions of Christ himself
as to dissent from those of the pope '' But what,"" in the meantime,
^ meaneih this bleating of the elieep and lowing of the oxenl'" whence
is it that they have managed the pretence hereof to the gaining of
power, dconinion, wealth, and revenues unto themselves, beyond that
of the greatest kings and princes in this world? Let others do as
they shall think fit, I shall never commit the conduct of my soul
unto them, who, for aught I know, would never look after me nor
any other were it not for the advantage they make bf it unto the
sendee of their earthly desirea

It may be said, that other churches and persons do make advan-
tages imto themselves by that conduct of the souls of men which
they lay daim unto; and if this be suffident to render such guides
suspected, we shall scatter the diurdies, and leave none to guide
them. I answer. It doth no way follow; for the rules, measures,
and outward allowances^ for and in the name of their labour and
guidance, unto the ministers of the goq)d, are in goieral so stated
in the Scripture as that men cannot mi^ake therein unto their pre-
judice. But we ane not at all concerned in what advantages men
make unto themselves hereby, provided that the ccMiduct they pre-
tend unto be such as is aoconi^iamed with no dominion over our
fiuth, but is proposed oi^y as a help thereunta Whilst men require
not an albsolute reeignment of our souls and consciences unto them,
but leave us unto the perfect liberty of our own minds, to judge upon
and receive what they popose unto us, to examine and try all that
th^ instruct us in^ — ^which we may reject or refuse, according as it
evidenceth itsdf to be good or evil unto us^ — ^tbere is no great danger
in our conduct

This, I say, is sufficient to render this pretended guide, whidi with
so mudi vdbement importunity would impose itself upon us^ to be
so justly suq)ected unto all men not forsaken as well of common rea-
son as of all due reverence unto the w<Hxi of Qod, as that they wiU
not readily embrace it.

Secondly, As what hath been spoken is sufficient to render this
pretended guide eiiepeeted with all sober and considerate persons, so
there ace cogent reasons why it ought to be absolutely rejected hjf

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all who take care of their own eternal salvation. The cause peculi-
arly under consideration is stated on a double supposition : —

1. That there are such differences in and about religion among us
as wherein the eternal salvation of tiie souls of men are immediately
concerned; for some of them consist in opinions, principles, and
practices, pernicious and destructive unto salvation, as each side doth
acknowledge and contend. And it is meet the cause at present
should be expressly stated on this supposition, because those of the
Boman church design their great advantage from it

2. That in ibis case we ought diligently to apply ourselves unto
some safe guide which may lead and conduct us in the right way,
wherein we may glorify Qod and obtain eternal blessedness unto our
own souk This also is not only allowed by them, but fiercely con-
tended for, as a foundation of their whole causa Wherefore, to de-
termine our thoughts aright in our inquiry on these -suppositions^ we
may consider the things that follow: —

(1.) The first supposition is plainly stated in the Scripture. It is
plainly affirmed therein that such things were then banning in the
church, that they would ML out in after ages, and increase towards
the end and consummation of all things. See to this purpose Acts
XX. 29, 30; 1 Tim iv. 1-8; 2 Tim. iv. 3, 4; 2 Pet ii 1-3; 1 John
iv. 1-3, — all in compliance with the holy warnings and predictions of
,our blessed Saviour himself unto the same purpose, Matt xxiv. 4, 5,
11, 23-26. In all these places, and many oth^ the eause, as stated
in our supposition, is expressly foretold, with the pernicious effects of
opinions and heresies, overthrowing the foundation of fsdth and de-
s^oying the souls of men. In this cause is a certain guide necessary
in a peculiar manner.

(2.) In no one place, either in express words or by direct conse-
quence, are believers or the disciples of Christ directed in this case
to betake themselves unto such a guidance' of the church of Rome.
They are not so in any one place where these divisions are foretold,
where properly such directions should be expected, or nowhere; nor
yet in any other place whatever. Any one divine testimony unto
this purpose, giving this direction on that supposition, shall for ever
determine this controversy.

Shall we think that the Lord Jesus Christ, foreknowing, foretell-
ing, and warning all his disciples of such a dangerous state and con-
dition, as from which they cannot escape or be delivered without a
guide that will safely lead and conduct them, if there were but one
such guide prepared and appointed by him, should nowhere,' in any
divine revelation, direct them thereunto? Doth a supposition hereof
truly represent imto us his love, care, and compassion towards tie
church? Can any thing more injiurious^unto his wisdom, faithfiilness^

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and honour be once imagined ? It is impossible, therefore, that an j
man, in the case supposed, should betake himself unto the sole con-
duct of the pope or church of Home without casting contempt on
him and his authority. But, —

(3.) Tet there is ferther evidence of his mind herein, in that we are
expressly in this ease directed unto a/fwtiisr guide, without any men->
tion of the church of Rome, which is utterly exdusive of this pre*
tenca For, — [1 J All believers are commanded themselves to exa»
mine and try all iSetlse teachers, prophets^ and spirits that are not of
Ood, doctrines subverting the fidth, and endajigering the souls of
men ; which is utterly inconsistent with that absolute, tmiversal resig*
nation of themsdves unto the guidance of the church of Rome which
is claimed by it See 1 John iv. 1-3. [2.] They are directed unto
the way, means, and rule whereby they must nmke this trial, and
come unto the final determination in their own minds, Is& viii 20;
2 Pet I 19; 2 Tim. ill 15-17. And this also is diametrically op*
posite unto that resignation of themselves unta the church of Rome
which it requireth of them. [3.] They have a guide promised unto
them, to give them an understanding of the rule in the dischaige of
this duty, and to enable them to make a right and safe determination
thereon, John xvL 13; 1 John il 26, 27. These things are consistent
with a ministerial guide, such as is found in all true churches^ wherein
^one pretend to be lords of our &ith, but onfy helpers of our joy;
but with a supreme authoritative guide, requiring an absolute resign
nation of our understandings and consciences unto itself they are
altogether inconsistent

This is the substance of our case, and this is the determination of
it ffven us by the Holy Ghost Diversities and divisions in prin*
ciples, opinions, and practices in religion, are supposed unto as great
a height as they can be at, at this day in the world. Teachers
" speaking perverse things; departures firom the fedth, giving heed to
seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; teachers not enduring sound
doctrine, turning away men's ears from the truth, and turning them
unto fables; faise teachenf, bringmg in damnable heresies, denying
the Lord that bought them, many following their pernicious ways;
spirits of &lae prophets going out in the world, the spirit of anti-
christ;" — ^these things, I say, are all supposed and foretold in the
Scriptura In this case and state of things, that we be not seduced,
that our souls be not ruined, yre are commanded ourselves to tiy and
examine all those who teach such things, whether they be of God or
no; and by the Scriptiure we are to try them, ii we intend not to be
deceived and undone for ever. Unto the right understanding hereof
a sure and faithful guide is promised unto us, to lead us into all
truth; so that no concernment of religion is more plainly stated, and|

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as unto our duty, more expreflsly determined in the SGripture, ihan

It is 80 in a peculiar manner in the First Epistle of John the
apostla Before the end of his days, diviaons, erroTB, heredea, began
to abound in Christian religion. This he folly testifieth^ chap. iv.
1-3, and 2 Epist 7. According unto his duty, he writes unto be-
lievers to warn them of their dooger, with reference unto them that
seduced them, or attempted so to do, 1 Epist chapi iL 26. And be
writes unto this purpose unto ^' fiBU^heni, young men, and children,'' or
professed believers of all sorts, degrees, and endowments, verses 12, 13;
and this not ** because they did not know the truth, but because
they did know it,'" and had experience of its power, verse 21. But
in all the directions he gives them for the discharge of their duty, so
as that they might escape the dangers they were exposed unto, tiieane
is not any one word, any intimation that they should betake them-
selves imto the guidance of this, or that, or any church, mudi leas
that which is called the church of Boma But the sum of his direo-
tion is, that they should rely on the unction they had received from
the Holy One, or the aids and supplies of the Spirit of Qod, to under-
stand the Scripture in the examination and trial they were to make
of all these things, chap. iL 20, 27.

But to preserve their interest, they tell us that these precepts and
promises are given unto the church, and not unto individual bcdievers;
as though the church were any thing materially but individual be-
lievers, and formally but a difi^)osition of them into a sacred order
for their edification. " Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the
Sabbath was made for man." Believe:^ were not made for the church,
but the church is made for believers, and is of no use but with respect
unto their edification. And to deny all individual persons to be the
first object of all gospel precepts and promises,-^churches, in what
sense soever you take them, being so only as they are directive of
their faith and obedience, — is to exempt their consciences from the
authority of Ohrist, to turn them into beasts, and to overthrow the

IJet men now who take care of their own eternal salvation, place
themselves in their thoughts in that condition which the present
case and their own circumstances do place them in. The world, the
place where thej live, the people whereunto they do belong, are filled
with different apprehensions, principles, opinions, and practices in and
about religion. Some of these, as those between the Papists and the
Protestants, have immediate influence into their eternal condition of
blessedness or misery, as both parties contend. Dreadful disorders
and confusions have followed, and are like to follow, these differences
^en in this world. They will, in this case, fijid that it highly oon-

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oems them to take care that they be not deceived, and thereby ruimed
eternally, as multitudes are; tiiat ihey ^'be not high-minded, hui
fear." A'guide la that which they are to look after, that may carry
them safely through all these difficulties and dangem Two imme«
diately offer themselves unto them, tendering the utmost assurance
in thes^ things which the nature of man is capable of in this w<^ld.
The one is the Pope or church of Borne, which requires no more of
them but a blind submission unto its guidance,-*-^^ way, I confess, to
extricate themselves, and to deliver them from all care about their
own souls, easy and facile, if safe. The other is the holy Scripture,
with the promused aids of the Spirit of Ood to lead us unto the un-
derstanding of it and the jtruth contained in it But in this way it
is required of men that they make use of their own reason, ^mdeiw
standing, judgment^ diligence, with fervent prayer for divine assistance.

The present question is, Whether of these two guides such persons
ought to betake themselves unto ? I am on the consideration of one
directive reason only; others shall be afterward spoken unto. And
this is, that the Scripture, which all acknowledge to be the word of
God, to speak in his name, expressly supposing this case and all the
circumstances of it before laid down, doth thereon frequently direct
and command us to make use of this latter guide, if we desire to be
saved; and doth nowhere, no, not once, on a supposition of this case,
send us unto the guidance of the church or pope of Bome, or any
other church whatever. Wherefore, for men to sufibr themselves to
be inveigled, their souls to be perverted, and their faith overthrown
by a few captious, sophistical reasonings of men of perverse minds,
pursuing their own secular interest; to turn aside from the command-
ments of our Lord Jesus Christ and his aposties, in so plain, evident,
and indisputable a case and duty, — ^is such a folly in itself such an
impiety against Ood, such a contempt of the Lord Christ, his wisdom,
authority, and care, as must be eternally accounted for.

Thirdly, The things, for the most part, which this pret^ided guide
proposeth unto and imposeth on the consciences, faith, and practice
of them who give up themselves unto its conduct, are so unreasonable,
— so contrary unto the common sense of Christians and the very first
notions of the minds of men any way enlightened with the doctrine
of the gospel, — S9 directly opposite unto the design of God in the re*
velation of himself unto us, and his commands concerning our faith
and obedience, — ^that it is a thing astonishable how they should attain
an access imto them who have any sense of these thinga But when
once men have their eyes bored out, — as they do it for themselves in
the resignation they make of their understandings and consciences
unto the conduct of this church, — ^they must grind whatever is brought
imto them. I shall briefly instance in some few things of this sortie-

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1. The keeping of the Scripture from their daily and continual i«e
I speak not directlj unto them who^ being brought up from their
infeuicy in that church, know nothing of the Scripture but that the
Bible is an obscure, dangerous book unto all laymen, which heretics
make use of unto their advantage, — such persons can be contented
to want it, or be without it all their lives, especially seeing it is full
of light and principles inconsistent with their carnal lusts and interest ;
— ^but I speak of such who, many of them, like Timothy, have known
the Scriptures from children, and having been conversant in them,
have had some experience of their power.

Unto such as these come persons in the name and on the behalf
of this pretended guide; and a compass of plausible words they will
use, fit to distract and amuse weak and unstable minda But the
plain sense of what they say in this case is, " Cast away this Bible,
this book; it doth but perplex you and disturb your minds with
things that are above you, which you cannot understand, and is
therefore an occasion of almost all the pernicious errors that are in
the world." Will not any such person be ready to say, " Hath God
given this book, this alone, as the only revelation of his mind and
will unto us, as the guide and rule whereby we may come unto the
eternal enjoyment of him (which you dare not directiy deny) ; hath
he commanded me to read, study, meditate, and be conversant in it
continually ; have I found the benefit of the light, counsel, and con-
solation administered by it in my own soul; and shall I now forsake
it, cast it away, to betake myself unto your guidance and direction ?
Shall I forsake Qod, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, all the prophets
and apostles, who daily speak unto me in and by this word, to com-
ply with you V The very horror of the proposal is enough to secure
the minds of any who have the least spark of spiritual light or grace
from a compliance with it Wherefore, whether it be reasonable to
leave the word of God, which is full of light, shining like the sun in
the firmament, to follow the glimmerings of this wandering meteor,
whidi arose out of a horrible pit, and there will end, is left unto their
consideration who take care of the eternal salvation of their own

2. The solemn worship of God, by the guides of the church, in a
tongue and langiuige which the peojie do not wnderstand^ is another
of their proposals. This they are bound to attend unto, on pain of
damnation. But how any thing can be more contrary unto the com-
mon sense 6f them who know what it is to pray in a due manner, no
man can conceive. As imto them who do not, yet is it not hard to
convince them, where they are not obstinate on other prejudices, how
irrational this proposal is, how inconsistent with that reasonable ser-
vice that God requireth of us. Others will say that they find hinder-

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Its unbeasonable exactions. 605

ADoei and difficulties enough from and in thi» duty, from the weakness
of tLeir faith and instability of their minds, the suggestions of Satan,
with diversions from outward objects ; if you add thereunto that
they shall not understand a word of what is spoken in prayer, and
they know well enough they shall never pray at aU. And the truth
is, did we not know whence they took occasion for this strange con-
trivance, so contrary to the nature of all religion, and what advantage
they make of it unto themselves, it could never be sufficiently admired
how such a senseless imagination should befiall their minds. I do not
design to show how contmry it is to Scripture precepts and examples,
to the practice of all the saints under the Old Testament and the
New, with that of the primitive churches, and, on all accounts, what
an abominable sacril^e it is so to rob the chmt^ of its chiefest trea«
sure; it hath been done by others sufficiently. I only give it as an
instance how unmeet this pretended church is to be such a guide as
whereunto we are to make an absolute resignation of our understand-
ings and consciences in all concerns of religion; and there is nothing
that can make them who have any r^ard unto their own souls to
reject its guidance with more detestation. Shall they accept them
for their guide in reUgion, who, under pain of damnation, confine
them, in all the public worship of the church, unto the use of a lan-
guage that they do not understand i [so] that, instead of praying with
their understandings, they must be content with a dumb show, with
postures and gestures, with altars and pictures, the antic actings of a
{mest^ and a noise of words whose sense they know not at all? If
^ man would seek for an in&llible guide to hell, it is hard to find
one more likely and bettor qualified unto that purpose than is this
church of Boma

3. There is, at the same instant, proposed unto us by this guide,
the doctrine of transubstantiation, with the sacrifice of the mass
thereon depending. This, they say, we must b^eve, at least avow
that we do believe, on pain of eternal and temporal destruction alsa
But herein they require of us, that, on ihe mere credit of their con-
duct, we must renounce the use of our senses, the exercise of our
reason, and actings of £Edth on divine revelations, all things whereby
yre are either men or Christians, that we may become blind idolatera
But they who, pretending to be our guides in religion, do thereon
impose this monstrous imagination on our credulity, with the idol-
atrous practice wherein it issues, had need give us better security of
their divine infrJlibility than the angels in heaven can do; for if an
angel fix>m heaven should preach this doctrine unto us, we may safely
esteem him accursed, QaL L 8.

4. The last thing I shall instance in of this kind is the adoration
or worship of images. Qod says concerning it expressly, *' Thou shalt

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not make unto thyself any graven imagea; thon dialt not bow down
to them^ nor won^ them." They say oontrary, ^ Hiou diali make
unto thyself graven images; thou duJt bow down to them, and adoie
them." And in their use they make them the stage-fdays in reHgion,
wherewith the minds of ignorant, unstable pecBons are alhued and
seduoed into all manner oi superstitious praotioee, and turned off
from the simplicity of the goqpel ; for being once persuaded^ on the
credit of their guide, that the making, use, and adoration of them are
lawful, there is enough in the carnal minds of men to make them
** dote" and even be ^ mad" upon them. Wherefore, no less senrioe
is done unto the int«:est of sin and the kingdom of Satan hereby,
than if they should have taken off all sense of the auth<uity of Ood
from the consciences of men in the prohibition of those things which
their sensual lusts are most prone unto. Could they have dissolved
the obligation of the commands of God against adultery or stealin^^
and left men unto the guidance of their own lusts and inclinations^
it is evident what abominable excesses the generality of men would
run inta Neither do the lusts of the mind engage persons with less
fierceness into the pursuit of their objects than do those of the flesh;
and thence the disannulling of this command of Qod hath been an
inlet imto all abominable idolatry. But herein they will not allow
those who give up themselves unto their conduct once to oonader
the direct contradiction that is between Qod's commands and theirs;
but believe they must what their church believes^ and practise ac-
cordingly, — ^which is the most intolerable tyranny over the souls of
men that ever was attempted. Only they will teU us of ^^latria^" and
** dulia," and " hyperdulia," of religious worship that is direct or re-
ductive, transient or terminated on this or that object; and, after a
maze of the like insignificant terms, the conclusion is positive, '' You
shall worship graven images."

There are also sundry oth^ things wherein they do or would im-
pose on the credulity of men, — ^in open contradiction imto their senses
reason, and experience, as weU as unto all evidence of truth frxnn the
light and guidance of the Scripture, — which are somewhat of another
nature than those foregoing. I shall only mention some of them ;
as, — 1. They would have us believe that '^ we cannot believe tha
Scripture to be the word of God but upon the testimony and autho*

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 61 of 67)