Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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sitting on his throne^ the train of his light, holiness^ loYe, and graces
filling the whole teonple; — ^look into it under their conduct, and
there is the dreadfol appearance of the ^'lawless person,'' the Man of
Sin, sitting in the temple of Qod, showing hhomielf to be God, to
our horror and amazement Look into the primitiye assemblies of
Christians, 2 Cor. liL 8-11, you shall see meekness, famnilitj, and
the glorious ministration of the Spirit in ootward simplicity; — ^look
into those of this gtdde, and you shall see them like the house of
Micah, Judges xviL 5, a house of gods;, with molten images^ graven
images, ephods, and teraphims, multiplied instruments of supentitioii
and idolatry. Look on their conversation of old in the world, and
it was humble, peaceable, useful, profitable mito mankind, with a
contempt of earthly things in comparison of those that are eternal; —
but under the conduct of this guide, ambition, pride, sensuality, and
profaneness have covered the nations of its connnunion ; in aQ things
have they lost and defaced the native beauty and ^ory of Christian
religioa It will be c^ no advantage unto any voluntarily to come in
into a participation in this woful apostasy.

Ninthly, The xmupportahle yoke that this guide puts on kings and
sovereign princes, on pretence of its divine ri^t of a unrveraal guid^
ance of them and all their subjects, deserves the consideration ol
than that are concerned, before they give up themselves unto it It
is true, that by and since the Reformation, as this power of these
men who caD ti^emsdves this guide hath been utterly cast off by
many, so in those places where on other accounts they maJntain their
interest, it hath been greatly weakened and impaired, — Whence those
of the greatest power in the nations of Europe have had little regard
unto their authority, unless it be ised unto their int^est and advan-
tage; — ^but their principles are still the same as they were, their pre»
tence of divine right the same that it was, and their desires after the
exercise of it^ unto th^ own ends, not at all abated. Could they
once again enthrone themselves in the consciences of kingd them-
selves and all their subjects, — could they destroy the balance of a
contrary interest, — could they take away the reserves of reUefe against
their encroachments, by engaging the assistance of subjects against
their princes, of one prince against another, as in former days, — there
is no reason to think but that they would return unto their former
usurpations and insolency. And wise men, yea, princes themselves,
may be deceived, if they take their measures of the nature of the
Papacy, with respect unto civil government, from its present deport-
ment and attempts, though bad enougL Take away the perplexities
and difficulties they are cast into, through the rejection of their autho-
rity by so many nations, and by the divided interests of kings and

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potentates thereon^ — heal their deadly wound, and restore them unto
a catholic power over the consciences of all sorts of men, by the de-
struction of them by whom it is opposed, — and it will quickly appear
with another aspect on the world, another manner of influence on
the governors and governments of kingdoms and nations^ than now it
dotL But the consideration hereof belongs principally unto them
who are not wont to be unconcerned in the preservs^on of their just
authority. Yet, if occasion require it, a demonstration shall be given
of the necessary and unavoidable consequences of the re-admission of
the papal power in any of the nations of Europe who have cast it
out, and that with respect unto the governors and governments of

Among many other considerations which offer themselves unto
the same purpose, and which shall be produced if occasion is given,
I shall add one more, and close this discourse. And this is, thatthe
foundation of all the religious worship which this guide directs unto,
whence all other parts of it do proceed, and whereon they do depend,
consists of the overthrow of one of the principal articles of the Chris-
tian &ith; and this is, that '^ our Lord Jesus hath by one offering
for ever perfected them that are sanctified,"' as it is expressed by the
apostle, Heb. x. 14. In direct opposition hereunto, the ground and
reason of their mass, and the sacrifice therein, — ^which is the life,
soul, centre, and foundation of all their reli^ous worship, — ^iies in this,
that there is a necessity that Christ be offered often, yea^ every day,
in places iimumerable ; without which, they say, the church can neither
be sanctified nor perfected. Such a guide is this church, as that it
lays the foundation of all its sacred worship in the overthrow of the
principal foundation of the Christian &itL

God, in his appointed time^ will put an end unto all these extzar
vagandes, excesses^ and distractions m his church, " when violence
shall be no more heard in her land, wasting nor destruction within
her borders; when she shall call her walls Salvation, and her gates

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This tract appears to liaTe been published anonymonslj in 1680. The exdtemeai pre-
Tailing thron^oat Britain at tiie time has be^ described in tiie pre&toiy note to the
preoeSng treatise. The precise tarn of our aathor in the tract which follows is not Toy
easily ascertained; nor does it at first sif^t appear why, in order to strike a blow at
Popery, and advanoe the interests of Protestantism, he should insist so strongly on the
fact that the Anglican hierarchy, in its claims and pretensions, was the chief cause of
the lamentable dirisions among British Protestants, and, consequently, of the weakness
of the Protestant interest at this junoture. It waa^ however, not an unusual plea with
the adherents of the EngliA Cfaun^ and more especaally with the abettors of the hi^.
handed measures adopted by the Court for discountenancing and si^ypresmng diasenti
that the Church of England was the bulwark of Protestantism, and that to strengthen
it was the wisest course which the nation in the present crisis could pursue^ in. order to
ayert the threatened restoration of papal influence in Britain. Chundunen, accordingly,
who were alarmed at the "prosped of Fopery regaining its asoendencT^ in the land, mig^
under this consideration dexterously and plau^bly urged, be not only confirmed in their
attachment to the Established Church, but look with increased jealousy upon Nonooo-
formists, as traitors to the cause of Protestantism ; while the latter might be led to abater
in some degree, the strength of their oonsoientious o^^poeition to the polity of the Estab-
lished Church.

Our author, on the other hand, shows in this tract that in reality the Churdi of
EngUod-*dreadedat the Court of Bome^ and respected by Beformed Chuidies abnnd,a8
the representative of British Protestantism — ^was not confined within the pale of the
Established Church, but consisted of "the body of Christian people professing Protes-
tantism, witii a detestation of Popery." It is next his object to show that the hierardiy
of England, or, more generally, "the authoritative national church-state," was a sonroe
of weakness rather thui a tower of strength to the Protestant interest, on aooount of
(1.) its encroachment on the civil rights and government of the nation; (2.) the cfppns-
sion of Nonconformists in order that its claims and dignity mij^t be uphdd ; and (3.)
the spirit it fostered of subserviency to royal aggrandizement, in order to secure a share
in the preferment which is under the patronage and at the diq[)Osal of the Crown. So
long as the Anglican church was maintained in its daims, it was "vain to expect peace
and union among Protestants." He proceeds farther, and aflKrms that Popery may
seize possession of it, and make use of it for its own purposes, till the whole nation be
insensibly "betrayed into Popery, as it were, they know not how."

In the absence of a National or Established Church, Protestantism would not be en-
dangered, if the State gave civil and public securities for the maintenance of the Pro-
testant religion. He specifies the securities requisite for this purpose: — a national
renunciation of; and protest against, the errors of Popery; a confession of fidth, to be
subscribed by all enjoying a public ministiy ; and tiie exerdse of magisterial authority
to the encouragement of Protestantism, in providing for the support of the gpepA^ and
in protecting ti^e church in the enjoyment of its spiritual power. He contend that the
church should be protected in the exercise of its spiritual power by spiritual means

His design, accordingly, in this tract, is not so much to enforce ihe duty of onioa
among Protestants, as to indicate the danger which, in his judgm^t, threatened the
ProteObant cause ftom the "national church-state," or, to oome nearer the modem
phrase, the state-church; though from the view he takes of the duty of the magistrate
to support Christian ordinances, his objections to it have not much in oommpn with the
opposition now ofifered to the principle of a state-churcL The subject of the tract is
continued, and his views in legaid to the oourse which apostaey to Bome mi^t take^
are more itilly developed, in the succeeding treatise. — ^Ed.

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1. The protestant religion, introduced into this nation by the apos-
tolical way and means of the holiness and laborious preaching of its
professors, confirmed with the martyrdom of multitudes of all sorts^
being now thoroughly fixed in the minds of the body of the people^
and confirmed unto them by laws and oaths, is become the principal
interest of the nation, which cannot be shaken or overthrown with-
out the ruin of the government and destruction of the people. No-
thing, therefore, less being included in the attempts of the Papists,
with all their interest in Europe, for the re-introdudng of their reli^^
gion amongst us, the nation hath been constantly filled for a hun-
dred years with fears, jealousies, and apprehensions of dangers, to
the great disturbance of the government and disquietment of the
subjects; nor can it be otherwise whilst they know that there is a
pregnant design for their total subversion, together with the ruin of
the protestant religion in other places, which would have ensued
thereon. But, —

2. This religion, so received and approved by the people as the
only true way to salvation (accompanied with an abhorrency of the
superstition, idolatry, and heresies of the church of Rome, partly on
the general account of their own nature, and partly on particular
reasons and provocations, firom the attempts of those that belong unto
that church for the ruin of them and their religion), and jointly pro-
fessed in the same confession of faith, hath been preserved by the,
means of a fedthful, laborious ministry, under the care, protection, and
outward government of the supreme power, as the greatest bulwark
of the protestant religion in Europe.

3. The only weakness in it, as the interest of the nation (before it
was infested with novel opinions), was the differences that have been

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amongst many of the professors of it^ from the very first b^inmng
of the Reformation, and which are continued unto this day.

4. These differences, though consisting now in many partioilars of
less moment, arose originally solely from the constitution of an au-
thoritative national churcb-stata For some would have it to be of
one sort, namely, episcopal; some of another, namely, presbyterian;
some would have it of a divine original, others of a human, wbich
must be the judgment of the king and parliament, who know it to
be what they have made it, and nothing else; and some judge it a
mere usurpation on the power of the civil government and the liber-
ties of the people.

5. It is therefore acknowledged that the body of Christian people
in this nation professing the protestant religion, with a detestation
of Popery, having the gospel preached unto them, and the sacraments
duly administered, under the rule of the king, are the church of
England. But as unto an authoritative national church, consisting
solely in the power and interest of the clergy, — ^wherein the people,
either as Christians, Protestants, or subjects of the kingdom, are not
concerned, — such as is at present established, farther inquiry may be
made about it

6. There is a threefold form of such a church at present contaided
for. The first is Papal, the second Episcopal, and the third Presby-

7. The first form of an authoritative national church-state amongst
us, as in other places, was papal; and the sole use of it here in Elng-
land was, to embroil our kings in their government; to oppress
the people in their souls, bodies, and estates; and to sell us all, as
branded slaves, unto Home. These things have been sufficiently ma-
nifested. But in other places, especially in Qermany, whilst otherwise
they were all of one religion, in doctrine and worship, all conform to
the church of Rome, yet, in bloody contests, merely about this autho-
ritative church-state, many emperors were ruined, and a hundred set
battles fought in the field.

8. At the Reformation, this church-state was accommodated (as
was supposed) unto the interest of the nation, to obviate the evils
suffered from it under the other form, and render it of use imto the
religion established. Tet experience manifests that, partly from its
constitution, partly from the inclinations of them by whom it is ma-
naged, other evils have accompanied or followed it; which, until they
are removed, the weakness of the protestant interest, through mu-
tual divisions, will remain among u& And, among others, they are
these: —

(1.) An encroachment on the civil rights and government of the
nation, in the courts and jurisdictions pretended to belong or to be

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annexed unto this church-state, over the persons, goods, and liberties
of the subjects (yea, in some cases, their lives). It is the undoubted
right and liberty of the people of this nation, that no actual juri^c-
tion should be exercised over their persons^ estates, or liberties, in a
way collateral unto, and independent on, the public administration
of justice unto all, derived from the sovereign power, and executed
by known officers, rules, and orders, according unto the laws of the
realm. If this be taken from them, all other pretences of securing
the liberty and property of the subjects are of no advantage unto
them : for whilst they have justice, in l^al public courts, duly ad-
ministered unto them, they may be oppressed and ruined (as many
are so every day) by this pretended collateral irregular power and
jurisdiction over their persons, goods, and liberties; from which it
seems to be the duty of the parliament to deliver them. And it is
the right of the kings of this nation that no external power over the
subjects be exerdsed but in their name, by virtue of their commis-
sion, to be granted and executed according unto the laws of the land.
This right of kings, and this liberty of subjects also, are so sacred as
that they ought not to be intrenched on by any pretence of church
or religion; for what is of God's own appointment will touch neither
of them. But the administration of this jurisdiction, as it is exer-
cised with a side-wind power, distinct^ different from, and in some
things contrary unto, the public justice of the nation (wherein all
the subjects have an equsd interest), and by the rules of a law fo-
reign imto that of the kingdom, is a great cause of the continuation
of divisions among Protestants, unto tiie weakening of the interest of
religion itsell

(2.) It is accompanied with the prosecution and troubling of peace-
able subjects in their liberties and estates, — ^not for any error in the
Christian faith, not for any declension from the protestant religion
or compliance with Popery, not for any immondities, but merely
and solely for their non-compliance with and submission unto those
things which are supposed necessary for the preservation of their
church-state, which is of itself altogether unnecessary; for the whole
complex of the imposed conformity in canonical obedience, ceremo-
nies, rites, and modes of worship, hath no other end but the susten-
tation and preservation thereof, being things otherwise that belong
not to Christian religion. This began, this will perpetuate, our divi-
sions ; which will not be healed whilst it is continued. And whilst the
two parties of Papists and Protestants are at this day contending, as
it were, for life, soul, and being (the long-continued design of the
former, under various pretences, and by great variety of attempts,
being come unto its fatal trial, as unto its issue), it will not be thought
meet by wise men, whose entire interest in religion and the liberties

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of the nation are ooncemed in this contest, to continue the "body of
Protestants in diviaon% with mutual animosities and the di^ust cl
multitudes, on such unnecessary occasions.

. (3.) Wh^reaS) by virtue of this state and constitution, sundry per-
sons are interested in honours, dignities^ power, and wealth, in all
which they have an immediate (and not merely legal) dependence
on the king since their separation from the pope, they have con-
stantly made it their business to promote absolute monardiical power,
without respect unto the true constitution of the government of this
nation; which in sundry instances hath been disadvantageous to ]angi
themselves, as well as an encumbrance to the people in parliament:
for although their constitution doth really intrench upon the king's
legal power in the administration of their jurisdiction, yet, to secure
their own interests, and to make a seeming compensa^on for that
encroachment^ many of them have contended for tbat absolute power
in the king which he never owned nor assumed unto himself,

d. The evils and inconveniences of this constitution of an autho-
ritative national church-state have been greatiy increased and pro-
pagated in this nation, as unto the heightening of divisions among
Protestants, by the endeavours that have been [made] to confirm and
continue this state in an extraordinary way. Such were the oath oiUed
" Et cetera^"^ and the late oath at Oxford,* whereon many sober,
peaceable protestant ministers have been troubled, and some utterly
ruined; which hath much provoked the indignation of the people
against those who occasioned that law, and for whose sake it was
enacted, and increased the suspicion that those who manage these
things would have men believe that their state and rule is as sacred
as the crown or religion itself unto the great disparagement of tJiem
both: which things are effectual engines to expel all peace and union
among Frotestanta

10. Those who are for the presbyteiian form of an authoritative

1 The oonyocation of the EngliHh church held under Lftud in 1640, drew up i
teen articles, entitled ** Constitutions and Canons Ecclesiastical,*' etc. Tliey ocmtain
extreme tIows of the royal prerogative, and aathoriie the infliotion of eoderiartical and
ciyil penalties upon Dissenters. The sixth canon emhodies an oath to be taken by the
clergy of the church ; and in this oath these words occurred, ** Nor will I ever give my
consent to alter the goyemment of the church by archbisliope, bisbopa, deans, and audi-
deacons, etc." This " etc.** was the subject of complaint, and gave rise to the ni^maiBC
by which the oath is commonly known. — En.

> While the plague was ravaging London in 1666, the parliament met at Oxford, and
imposed an oath on aUNonoonformists, binding them never to take up anas against
the king, or " endeavour any alteration of government, either in cboroh or state.** AU
who ref^ised to take the oath were forbidden to approach within five miles of any dtj
that returned a member to parliament, and any place where thej hi^ been ministen, or
where they had preached after the act of oblivion. Strange requital for the fiuthfulneas
which many nonconformist ministers were at this time evincing in abiding by thor
posts in London, and supplying consolation to its inhabitants^ diseased and dying im
amltitades around them! — Esk

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nadoiial chtirch-state do, indeed, cut off and cast away meet of thoee
thiiigs which are the matter of contest between the present dissent-
ing parties, and so make a nearer i^proach towards a firm imion
among all Protestants than the other do; yet such an authoritative
church-state, in that form, is neither proper for nor possible unto
this nation, nor consistent with that pre-eminence of the crown, that
liberty of ihe subjects, and freedom of the consciences of Christians,
which are their dua But this being not much among us pretended
unto, it need not &rther be spoken of

11. It is evident, therefore, that whilst the evils enumerated are
not separated from the present authoritative national church constitu-
tion, but the powers of it are put in execution, and the ends of it
pursued, it is altogether vain to expect peace and union among Pro-
testants in England. It neither hath been so, nor ever will be so; fire
and fagot will not be able to effect it Who shall reconcile the end-
less differences that are and have been about the power, courts, and
jurisdictions of this church-state, whether they be agreeable unto the
laws of the land and liberty of the subjects? The fixed judgment of
many, that they have no legal authority at present, nor any power
given imto them by the law of the land, whereon they dare not sub-
mit unto them, is no less chargeable, dangerous, and pernicious unto
them, than are their uncouth vexations and illegal proceedings unto
them who are unwillingly forced to submit unto them. . And, what-
ever may be expected, the people of this nation will never be con-
tented that their persons, goods, or liberties shall be made subject
unto any law but the public royal law of the kingdom, administered
in legal courts of justice. Who shall undertake that all Christians
or Protestants in this nation shall ever submit their consciences and
practices to a multitude of impositions no way warranted in the
Scriptures? or how any of the other evils that are the causes of all
our divisions shall be removed, cannot easily be declared.

12. If it shall be said, that if this authoritative national church-
state should be removed, and no other of another form set up in the
room of it, or be divested of the powers claimed at present by it, it
will be impossible to preserve the protestant religion amongst us, to
keep uniformity in the profession of it, and agreement amongst its
professors, it is answered,— (1.) Nothing ought to be removed but
what is a real cause, or unnecessary occasion at least, of all the de-
formity and disorder that is amongst us, and is likely so to continua
(2.) That whilst we have a protestant king and a protestant parlia-
ment, protestant magistrates and protestant ministers, with the due
care of the nation that they may so continue, and a protestant con-
fession of faith duly adhered unto, I shall not, under the blessing of
the holy Providence, fear the preservation of the protestant religion

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^ ■ - -

and interest in England^ without any recourse unto such a church-
power as fills all with divisiona This, I say, is that diurch of Eng-
land which is the principal bulwark of the protestant reli^on and
interest in Europe, — ^namely, a protestant king, a protestant parlia-
ment, protestant magistrates, protestant ministers, a protestant con-
fession of faith established by law, with the cordial agreement of the
body of the people in all these things, esteeming the protestant
religion and its profession their chief interest in this world. To
suppose that a few men, having obtained honours^ dignities, and
revenues unto themselves, exercising a power and authority (highly
questionable, whether l^al or no) unto' their own advantage, oppres-
sive unto the people, and by all means perpetuating differences

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 63 of 67)