Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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rity of their church." All the evidence that a man is capable of in
his own mind that he doth so believe it; all that can be given in
ordering our lives according unto it as the word of God; the assur-
ance and peace which multitudes of aU sorts have in resolving all
their interest in things eternal into the frdth of it; the sufferings and
martyrdoms which many have undergone in the confirmation of it;
the uncontrollable pleas that are made of the sufficiency of the motives

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wheieonwebelieYe it sotobe, — are nothing with them: but we must
■ay, we cannot betieve the Scripture to be the word of God but only
on the testimony and authority of their churdi; and therein both
give ourselyeB tho lie as unto what we know and are assured of^ and
judge milli<ms to hell who have lived and died in the faith of it,
without any respect unto that testim<my or authority. 2. They will
have U8 to Mieve what they do not indeed Mieve ihemsekes; bs,
for instance, justification by our own works: for practically many of
them do for this end trust unto absolutions, masses^ the sacraments,
and sacramentals of the church, with a reserve for the complement of
it in purgatory, — ^which are not our own works; and some of the
wisest of them do betake themselves at last to the ** only mercy and
grace of Qod.'' So would they have us to venture our souls on that
whereon they will not adventure their own. 8. Papal personal
fn/*aUi6iZtty was once a principal article of their creed; andthegene«
raJity of their proselytes do receive it firom them with no lees firm
assent than they do unto that of Christ himself But among them-
selves they have so multiplied their wrangling disputes about it, as
makes it evident that they believe it only so far as holds proportion
with their interest, and is subservient thereunto; indeed, not at alL
Their disputes of a difference between the court of Rome and the
church of Home, of the pope in his chair and out of it, in the use of
help and advice of others and without this, in a general council and
without it, in a particular council and without it, in matter of right
and of fact^ and the like, make it evident that they know not in what
sense to believe it; and so indeed believe it not at alL And whereas
they do themselves confess that some of their popes have been of the
worst of men, yea, monsters for luxuiy, undeanness, and violence,
that which they require of us is not only hard and unreasonable, but
impossible for any sober man to grants — namely, that we believe
such persons to have been infallible in the declaration of all divine,
*" heavenly mysteries, so as that we ought to acquiesce in their declara-
tion of them. 4. They would have us believe that the same body
of Christ which was once *' in the fulness of time made of a woman,''
by the power of God, is every day made of a wafer by the power of
a priest And what indignities are hereby cast on his person hath
been sufficiently demonstrated.

These are some of the proposals which this pretended guide makes
unto all them who give up themselves unto its conduct^ to be be-
lieved with a suitable practice, on the pain of eternal damnation.
But yet evident it is that they are all of them contrary unto the com-
mon sense, reason, and experience of all Christians, all that believe
the gospel, as well as directly contradictoiy unto the Scripture and
example of the primitive church. It is therefore left unto the judg-

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ment of all sober pereonsf, such as are not yet made drank with the
cup of their abominations^ to determine whether any thing but either
profound ignorance and spiritual darkness, or love of sin, with a de-
sire to live securely therein, or secular interests, or a hardening judg^
ment for the abuse of the truth, or a concurrence of all [of] them, can
prevail with men to make an entire, absolute resignation of their
souls, and all their eternal concernments, unto the conduct of this
pretended guid&

Fourthly, The way for the attaining the knowledge of the truth
proposed by this guide is opposite unto the way and means pre-
scribed by God himself unto that end. It is so whether we respect
the internal qualifications of our minds, or the duties that he pro*
scribeth, or the aid that he promiseth thereunto. For, as unto the
first, he requireth that those who would learn the truth ought to be
meek, and lowly, and humble, for such alone he will teach, Ps. zxy.
8, 9, 14; John vL 45, — ^and if we are not taught of God we learn no-
thing as we ought, or not imto any purpose; that they cast out all
" wickedness and superfluity of naughtiness,'' that so they may re*
oeive the ingrafted word with meekness, James L 21. Without these
things they may be always learning, but shall never come unto the
knowledge of the truth. And as unto means and duties, two things
he enjoins and indispensably requires of us in order imto this end:-'
1. That we study the word continually; that we meditate upon it,
and place our delight in it, JosL i 8; Deut vl 6, 7; Ps. L 2; I»
viiL 20; John v. 39; 2 Tmuiil 15-17; Ps. cxix. 18; John xvl 13;
1 John ii 20. 2. Fervent and diligent prayer, that we may be led
into and preserved in the truth, that we may be enabled to receive
it, and hold it fast against temptations and oppositions. For our aid
and assistance herein he conmiands us to wait for it, and expect the
Spirit of wisdom and revelation to open our eyes, to bring us unto
the full assurance of understanding, or to lead us into all truth Of
these things, of the necessity of them unto the due knowledge of the
truth, we hear nothing firom this pretended guide. She knows well
enough that to put the minds of men into these ways and the use
of these means, whereby they may be taught of God, and " learn the
truth as it is in Jesus," is to loose them fix)m herself for ever. How^
beit, they are the only ways and means prescribed and blessed of
God imto this end, with tiiose other especial duties which belong
unto them.

They will say, it may be, that they do instruct their converts in
these things, and press them withal unto higher acts of devotion and
mortification than others do. But there are two things which de-
prive them of any advantage by this pretenca For, — 1. We see and
know of what sort^ for the most part, their converts are. I shall not

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give that character of them in words which generally they ^ve of
tiiemselves in their works: for I have nothing to do with the persons
of men; and I should rejoice to see them give a better evidence oi
being instructed in these things than as yet they have done. But, 2,
Whatever of this nature they propose and prescribe unto them, it is
not unto this end, that they may learn and know the truth. They
require no more of any hereunto but that, on their sophistical and
frivolous pretences^ he give up himself unto their guidance, or submit
himself unto the authority of the pope: for hereby he formally
becomes a member of the Catholic church, whose faith, whether he
know it or no, immediately becomes his; and for particulars he must
wait for the priest's information, as occasion shall require.

This is, I confess, their great advantage in this world: — ^The way
tiiey propose to attain the knowledge of the truth is easy, consistent
witJi the lusts of men, exposed equally to the wise aiui foolish, to
the sober and intemperate, puts men out of all doubts, giving them
all the quiet assurance which deceit and falsehood can communicate.

The way of God imto the same end is difficult unto flesh and
blood, destructive unto the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, requir-
ing diligence, humility, and watchfulness, in the exercise of grace all
our days; which things few are pleased withaL Tet is this way of
God so suited unto the nature of religion; so becoming the import-
ance of this duty; so efifectual not only unto the attainment of the
knowledge of truth, but unto all the ends of it in the life of God; is
so necessary, on the account of the infinite greatness and holiness of
God, with the nature of divine revelations, — ^as that no man, who is
not blinded with prejudices and corrupt affections, can decline it to
embrace the other.

There are other things yet, if it be possible, of a higher abomina-
tion, to deter all sober persons from touching with this guide, than
those already insisted on. And such they are as the present contri-
vances and practices of our adversaries do unavoidably compel us to
plead in this cause, and are in themselves sufficient for ever to divest
that church of this great and gainful pretence of being the only guide
of all men in religion. For, —

Fifthly, Consider what it is wherein they instruct many of them
who betake themselves unto their conduct and guidance, — I mean of
the agents for and in the name of the church of Boma The first
thing which they labour to fix on their minds and consciences is ab-
solute obedience unto their immediate guides, with a blind belief of
what they propose unto them; and this they prevail on them unto
by assuming a twofold authority imto themselves. 1. And the first
is, that ot forgiving them aU their eins, though against the light of
nature and of their own consciences, which they confess imto them;

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and thifl oonfeaBton ihey aie obliged tmto under pain of damnation.
Some things, indeed, they do require of them in order unto a parti*
dpation of jniestly abeoluti<xi, Imt they are all in the power of the
priest to preecribe, dedine, or accept; which latter they will not be
uneasy unto when it conduoeth unto tiieir advantage. The issue
is, that in this pardon of their sins the souls of men may as aafidy
acquiesce as if they were immediately pardoned by Christ himsell
And if they have oceasioii, for the advantage oi the Catholic cause,
to put them on things that are openly sinful, as murder and sedi-
tion, either by virtue of the direction, guidance, axkd commands of
the priests^ they lose their nature and become no sins at all, or Uiey
are so assured of pardon as puts them, in their consdencea, into
as good a state and condition as if they had not nnned. And, —
2. They assume unto themsdves an auth(»ity to giant eq)ecial pri-
vileges and rewards, in heaven and earth, to the doing of what they
command or require, whatever it ba As unto tiie earth, so many
prayers, so many masses^ shall be asngned unto their advantage; and
in some cases canonization, witii all the glorious privileges of it And
as unto heaven, what they so do idiall have such a proportion of merit
as shall exalt them unto the second, third, or fourth place of prece-
dency and h<Miour therein among all the holy martyrs. It is incredible
what power and dominion over the consciences of thar proselytes
. they obtain by these means^ witii other artifices of the Uke nature.
Hence many of them know of no other dependence on any, as unto
present peace and et^nal blessedness, than that on the priests alona
Woful practices do foUow on these prindples: £or the minds of
men bdng thus prepaied, they dispose of them unto mdi oocasioBB
or services, for the interest of the Catholic cause, as their own nalnre^
inclinations, the fierceness or softness of their tempers, their outward
greatness, power, and wealth, or their struts, wants, and necessities^
render them meet unto; for now they are ready for such thingsy
which, if they had not relinquished the caie and chaige of their own
souls, if th^ had not absolutdy resigned them unto others, they
would never have entertained a thought of wUhdit detestation and
abhorrency. Poor deluded creatures! who could sufficjenily bewail
their condition, but that, for the most part^ through the love of sin
and the wages of it, they dioose these delusions? Some now shall
fire cities; some shall mvurderinDOC^it persons; some shall asBBSsmafte
lungs and potentates; some shall creep into houses and lead esfitive
silly women, laden with sins, led about with diven lusts; and some
shall prostitute themselves unto the carnal lusts and pleaeures of
others; — all, as they judge, conducing unto the Catholic oanse, find
their own interest therein! These are thqr who must answov not
only for the blood q£ tiiem that are murdeied, but <d their mur»

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derera alaa I heaxiily wish these Uiiogs were not S0| ihofc they
iiever had been so; but, being bo, it is well that tiiey aie known so
to be, and that they are written in such legible characters in most
nations of Europe, espeoiaUy in this iflrherein we live, as that he who
runs may read them. I shall not descend unto particular instances;
every one's naiid and thoughts will suggest them unto tiiem, or they
may learn them in Westminster HalL

It will be said, that on a supposition that these things'are so, yet
this is the crime of but a few, it may be of a few Jesuits, which
othen, especially the church, is not concerned in. They axe but a
few who teach and instruct thdr converts unto sudi purposes, — ^but a
few that are possessed with those maxims and principles whidi lead
unto these practices. Notwithstanding their miscarriages, the church
itself may be a safe guide unto the souls of men.

I answer two things: — 1. That those who have these principles^
who teach tfaase practice^ are all of them appointed unto their office
and work, imposed on the condcteoces of men as their only guides^
by the atntiiority of Hke chturch itseli No caution is given by it
•against thein,-^-iio rule prescribed whereby they may know them; but
they come aU armed with the authority of the church, and as such
are received by their credulous foUowen. The whole, therefore, of
what they do may justly be ascribed unto the church itself 2. It
may be made to i^pear tbaty for about a hundred and fifty years
pai^ no piot^ no design, hath been conceived or perpetrated, wherein
kings, [Hinces^ private persons were to be murdered or destroyed,
wherein nations were to be embxtuled in blood and confusioti, in
order unto the ptomotion of th^ Caiholic cause, but the ckurck iiMlf
was dtber tiie contriver or improver of it Who a{q)roved of the
murder ofthe two kings in France, one after another? of the massacre
there of a himdred thousand Protestants? Who designed and
blessed all preparations for the nrarder of Queen ElizabeUi, with the
unjust invi^km of the natiOB in '88 ?^ Who blessed and protected,
what in them lay, the horrible massacre of Ireland, with the
daughtBB that have been made in other places on the same princi-
pies? Was it a few Jesuits only? was it not the church itself, in its
head the |)ope, and its horns the ca/rdinals at Borne ?

Wherefore, although it seem good unto this church to assume unto
itself the sole conduct of Uie souls of all men, in the matters of reli-
gion, which hath thrived in its hands unto an incredible grandeur, in
dominion, power, and wealth; yet other men of an ordinary wisdom
and capacity, who are not yet taken alive by them at thenr pleasure^
will be ready to judge (especially now the cave of Cacus is opened)
that it is necessary tor them to take more care of their own woia.
> Tin Mte«m» It to tfie Sipiiiiiii Annkla of 168a - £DL

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Some will say that all these things, principles, and practices, are
separable from their religion, and that they will take sufficient heed
unto themselves that they give admittance unto none of them, espe-
cially such as are against the light of nature and the known roles of
common honesty. Both the goodness of their own natural temper,
iEmd the principles of morality, which they will never part vdthal, will
give them and others securi^ herein.

Ood forbid I should ever charge any persons with any thing that
is criminal, whereof they are not or may not be easily convicted
Those who make these professions shall pass with me at the rate and
upon the credit of their professions; aa shall all men in this world,
until they contradict and disprove themselves by their actions. But
even such persons had need be veiy careful that they are not de-
ceived herein. The resignation which they are to make of themselves
and their consciences unto the conduct of this chiirch doth quite
change both their light and rule; for it includes a renunciation of all
principles and persuasions, in things divine and moral, that do or may
in the least interfere with that conduct It is true that neither that
church nor any else can change the nature of things moral in them-
selves: for although they may call good evil, and evil good, — ^light
darkness, and darkness light, — ^yet they cannot make that which is
good evil, nor that which is evil good; but they may make a &lse
representation of the one and other unto the minds of men. Henoe^
what was evil unto them antecedently unto this resignation of them-
selves, — as the firing of cities, the murder of innocent p^sons^ the
overthrow of governments and nations for their own ends, — shall be
imposed on them by this pretended in&llible guide as things good
and meritorious with reference unto their CathoUc ends. These are
the two most pernicious devices in all their superstition: — 1. That
the consciences of men are exempted and taken ofif from an imme-
diate dependence on and subjection unto the authority of Christy and
put in immediate subjection unto the priest's; seeing he neither pro-
miseth any thing unto them, nor commands any thing but by the
church. 2. That their commands, because they are theirs, do regulate
their consciences even as unto moral good or evil Nor is it safe tor
these men to trust too much unto the goodness of their own natures^
nor, it may be, unto others who are concerned in what they shall da
For as it is the glory of the doctrine and grace of the gospel to change
the wolf, the lion, and the leopard, Isa. xi 6-9, persons of the fiercest
and most violent inclinations, into quiet associates of lambs and
children; so it is to be feared, fix)m many instances, that by virtue of
their conduct they can change appearing sheep, at least as unto their
natural tempers, into that which is violent, bloody, and poisonousL
Sixthly, Under pretence of being this guide, and to impose their

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pretensions tbereimto on the minds and consciences of men, this
church hath filled most nations of Europe with blood and slaughter;
making horrible devastations of innumerable persons, both feanng
Qod and living peaceably in the world. Ten times more blood of
Christians hath been shed by them unto this end than was shed in
all the primitive Pagan persecutions. All that dissent firom them
may say, "Quae regie in terris nostri non plena cruoris?" — " Is
there any nation in Europe that is not filled with our blood V* The
last day alone can discover the blood that hath been shed secretly
or with little noise by the Inquisition, in the Spanish and some of
the Italian territoriea England, France, Qennany, Flanders, Hol-
land, Ireland, can speak for themselves, in the cruelties which unto
this end have been executed in thenL The sole reason of all this
inhuman violence hath been, that men would not submit their souls
and consciences unto that absolute power over them and conduct of
them whidi their church daimeth imto itself

And it is most probable that their absolute conduct is of the same
nature with the ways and means whereby they do attempt it or have
obtained it When men by force and firaud, blood and slaughters,
do endeavour to impose their rule upon us, we are not to expect but
that the rule will be answerable unto the means that are used for the
attaining it As in the first planting and propagation of Ohristiaa
religion the way and means of them were spiritual light, and the evi-
dent exercise of all graces, especially meekness, humility, patience in
sufferings, and contempt of the world, hereon men had just grounds
to believe and expect that the conduct which they were invited and
called unto, under the rule of Christ, would be of the same nature,
— meek, holy, just, and good, — ^whereof by experience they found full
assurance : so where the rule of our souls and consciences ib attempt-
ed and carried on by violence, blood, cruelty, and desolation of na-
tions, we have just ground to believe that if those who use them do
prevail therein, their leading and rule will be of the same natura

It is but reasonable, therefore, for any man, before he make choice
of this guide, to ask of himself or others these few questions: — ^Is there
any thing in the gospel which gives countenance unto this way of
imposing a guide in religion on the minds and consciences of men ?
Was there any thing like it in the practices of our Lord Jesus Christy
his apostles, or the primitive churches ? Doth this way make a just
representation of the spirit, the meekness, the holiness, the love, the
patience of our Lord Jesus Christ ? Is it consistent with the genius
of the doctrine of the gospel, the religion taught therein, as unto its
nature and ends, concerning our deportment in this world, and our
tendency unto another ? Can any man think without horror that
our Lord Jesus Christ should be the author of this way; that he hath

VOL. XIV. 33

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uppoiiited ihat all men should be starved, or hanged, or bnmed, (x
otherwise slaughtered, who would not submit unto the doctrine or
rule of this or any church, as some of the worst of men shall please
to state them t Is not this that which, among other things, gives ns
assurance that the doctrine'and superstition of Mohammed were from
hell, finom the old murderer, in that it is a prime dictate of them that
those who will not submit unto them are to be destroyed with fire
and sword? By that time a man hath a little weighed these inqui-
ries, with such other of the same nature that may be added unto
them, if he be not forsaken of all sense of the glory of Christ, of tbe
honour of the gospel, of the rq>utation of Christian religion, and all
care of the salvation of his own soul, he will make a long stand
before he give up himself absolutely unto the conduct of this

Seventhly, I eannot but mention, in the next place, that whid,
because it is commonly pleaded, I shall but mention. And this is^
tiiat many important principles and practices of the religion whidi
this pretended guide would impose upon us are evidentiy suited
unto tbe carnal interests and lusts of them who have the conduct of
it Such are purgatory, papal pardons, sacrifices for the dead, auri-
cular confession, with priesUy absolution thereoiL Many have already
declared how the notion and superstition of these things did both
raise fluid do maintain their revenues, and are otherwise made use d
to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof. And iheie
lieth no encouragement herein to engage wise men to give up them-
selves unto its conduct But, —

Eighthly, Considerate men will be afraid of that conduct under
which Christian religion hath lost all its native beavijf, simplicity,
spiritual glory, and power. How are these things represented unto
us in the gospel ? How were they exemplified imto us in the lives
of the apostles and of all the sincere primitive converts? The church
was through them *' a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelt
righteousness.'' The whole of rdigion, as it was at first professed,
was nothing but a representation of the wisdom, truth, holiness, bve,
and compassion of Christ; an evident and glorious means to recorer
mankind from its apostasy frrom Qod, and to re-introduce his image
on the souls of men; a blessed way continually to exercise the power
of love, goodness, charity, bounty, zeal, and delight in God; a testi-
mony given unto the trutii, reality, and substance of things q)iiitual,
invisible, and eternal, with their preference above all earthly things.
Under their conduct is this beauty, this glory of Christian religion,
lost imd defaced. We may say, with the prophet of old, " How is
the fEdthfiil city become an harlot ! righteousness lodged in it, but
ttow murdereiB^'' Isa L 21. The churdi is the temjJe of Goi Oould

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WB liave looked into it of old, we miglKt hj &ith have eeea CSnirt

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 62 of 67)