Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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among Protestants, are that church of England which is justly
esteemed the bulwark of the protestant religion, is a high and pal-
pable mistaka The church of England, as unto its national interest
in the preservation of the protestant religion, is not only separaUe
firom it, but weakened by it Yea, if there be such a national consti-
tution as, in its own nature, and by the secular advantages which it
supplies men withal, inclines them to prefer their own interest above
that of the protestant religion in general, it will always endanger
that religion in any nation; for hereon they will judge, when they
are pressed on any occasion or circumstance of affidrs, that it is
better to preserve their own interest, by virtue of some dispensations
securing unto them their power and secular advantages, than to ven-
ture all by a rigid contest for the protestant religion.

Nor is it morally possible that ever Popery should retmn into thk
or any other nation, but under the conduct of such a church consti-
tution; without this it hath no prevalent engine but mere force, war,
and oppression.

But if the interest of Popery can possess this church-state, eith^
by the inclinations of them, or the greater number of them, who have
the management of it^ or by their dependence, as unto their interest^
on the supreme authority; if that happen in any age to give counte-
nance thereunto, the whole nation will quickly be insensibly influenced
and betrayed into Popery, as it were, they know not how. Hence
have been such national conversions to and firo in England as have
been in no other places or countries in the world ; for the care of the
public preservation of religion being, as it is supposed, intrusted in
this church-state and the managers of it, if by any means it be pos-
sessed by Popery, or influenced by a popish prince, the religion of
the whole nation will be lost immediately.

For as unto all other ministers who have the immediate guidance
of the people, they will suppose that they can do nothing of them-
selves in tJiis matter, but are only obliged unto the conduct of the

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church-state itsel£ And having their station therein alone, and de-
pending thereon, they may easily be either seduced by their interest
or excluded fix>m their duty by the power of that church:«tate where-
unto they are subject By this means the whole interest of the pro-
testant religion in this nation, as unto its preservation, depends on
such a state as, being the concernment of a few, and those such as have
an especial interest of their own, distinct from that of the protestant
religion in general, may be easily possessed by Popery, and probably
would be so, if they should have a popish prince to influence them.

But whereas the people are now possessed and fiilly persuaded of
the truth of protestant religion, if there be no public machine or
engines insensibly to turn about the whole body of them, but they
must be dealt withal individually or parochially, it will, as was said,
be morally impossible that ever Popery should become the religion
of this nation any other way but by the destruction or killing of the
present inhabitants.

Allow that the church-state supposed may, in those who have the
trust and power of it, be seduced, corrupted, or any way induced or
disposed unto the interest of Popery, as it may be; it is possible some
individual persons may be found that, for the sake of trutb, will ex-
pose their lives to the stake or otherwise, — so did many in the days
of Queen Mary, though now esteemed, by not a few, foolish zealots
for their pains, — ^but the body of the people, thjx)ugh their various
l^;al relations unto this church-state, deserting the care of their own
preservation, by their trust in the conduct thereof, whereunto they
are unavoidably compelled, will quickly be inveigled so as not to be
able to extricate themselve& But set them at liberty, so as that
every parliament^ every magistrate, every minister, every good Chris-
tian, may judge that the preservation of their religion is their own
duty in all their capacities, and Popery with all its arts will know
neither how to b^in nor how to proceed with them.

I^ then, there were no such church-state as, being in the manage-
ment of a few, is seducible, and not diflicult to be possessed by tiiie
interest of Popery, whereby the whole nation would be at once be-
trayed, the protestant religion is now so firmly seated in the minds
of the people, so countenanced by law, so esteemed by all to be the
principal interest of the nation, that the wit of all the Jesuits of the
world knows not how to attack it, much less endanger it; which, if
there be need, shall be &rther demonstrated.

13. Nor is it a matter of art or di£5lculty to declare a way for the
security of the protestant religion, with the rights of the government
and liberties of the subjects, with the due freedom of conscience,
without any such church-state; but it is what the principles of reli«
gion, common prudence, and the honest interest of the nation do

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direct unto: as, to instance in the things that aie most material tmto
that end, —

(1.) Let a solemn renmiciation of Popery, salted mito the geoenl
principles of the protestant religion, be estabUdied by law, to be
made publicly by every person that is to partake of the rights and
privil^es already confirmed unto that religicm, or whidi afterward
shall be so; to be renewed as occasion shall require.

(2.) Let there be one solemn stated confession of the Ghristiaa
protestant fiedth, such as is the doctrine of the Articles of the ehurd)
of England, especiaQy as explained in the public authorized writmgs
of the church in the days of Queen Elizabeth and King James^ befoie
the inroad of novel opinions among us^ to be subscribed by all enjoy-
ing a public ministry.

(3.) Let the magistrate assume unto himself the exerose of hk jnst
power, in the preservaticm of the public peace in all instaocefl; in
the encouragement and protection of the professors of the protestant
religion; in securing unto all men their l^al rights, already granted
unto them, in their several places and stations; in the punishment of
all crimes cognizable by human judgment; in deposing of men from
their enjoyments or privileges, which they hold on any condition,— ai^
suppose, dieir orthodox profession of the protestant religion, — ^if tliejr
£Bdl in, or fedl from, the performance of it; leaving only things pmely
spiritual and evangdical to the care and pow^ of the churches, and
fiJl litigious causes, of what sort soev^, with the infliction of all out-
ward penalties, unto the determination of the laws of the land;-Hmd
a great progress will be made towards order axni peace amongst na

(4.) Yetk, these few things^ in general, are only needful thereunto:—
[1.] Let the king and parliament secure the protestant rehgioo, asit
is the public interest of the nation, against all attempts of the f^ficf
for its destruction, mth proper laws, and their due executioa [%]
Let the wisdom and power of the nation, in the supreme and sabor-
dinate magistrates, be exerted in the rule of all persons and causes,
dvil and criminal, by one and the same law of the land, — in a cotor
pliance wherewith the all^p^nce of the subject imto the king doth
consist; without which, govemm^it will never be wdl fixed on its
proper and inmiovable basia [3.] That providon be made far the
sedulous preaching of the gospel in all parts and places of the land,
or all parochial churches ; the care whereof is incranbent on the
magistrates. [4.] Let the church be protected in the exerase of its
spiritual power by spiritual means onl^, — as pareadung of the word,
administration of the sacraments, and the hka Whatever is fivthcr
pretended as necessary unto any of the ends of true rel^[ion orits
preservation in the nation, is but a cover for the n^ligence, idfenes^
md mmMoeacy ol som^ of the clefgy, whp would have an ootvraid

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appearance of effecting that by external force which themselves, by
diligent prayer, sedulous preaching of the word, and an exemplary
conversation, ought to labour for in the hearts of men.

(5.) It is evident that hereon all causes of jealousies, animosities,
and strifes among the Protestants, would be taken away; all com-
plaints of oppression by courts and jurisdictions not owned by the
people be prevented ; all encroachments on the consciences of men
(which are and will be an endless and irreconcilable cause of difference
among us) be obviated; all ability to control or disturb the power
and privilege of kings in their persons or rule, and all temptations to
exalt their power in absoluteness above the law, will be removed ; so
as that, by the blessing of Qod, peace and love may be preserved
among all true Frotestant&

And if there do ensue hereon some variety in outward rites and
observations, as there was in all the primitive churches, who pleaded
that the unity of faith was commended and not at all impeached by
such varieties; yet, whilst the same doctrine of truth is preached in all
places, the same sacraments only administered, — ^wherein every pro-
testant subject of the nation will be at liberty to join in protestant
Christian worship, and to partake of all church ordinances in the
outward way, and according imto the outward rites, of his own choos-
ing, without the authoritative examination or prohibition of any pre-
tended church power but what, in his own judgment, he doth em-
brace, — no inconveniencawill follow hereon, imless it be judged such,
that the protestant religion, the liberty of the subjects, and the due
freedom of the consciences of men sober and peaceable^ will be all

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TOL. xir. 34

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Wbrheb m ngtfd <lie deep licMty perrtding thii treatiM; Hnb calm and i
dignitj of itsreasoningB; tlie Tiew it gifcs of the oonditkn and proa pe et i
of the Protcetent caviee; or the noble Btimin irlth whidi it oondndeB, of oonfidenoe in God
and the nltiinate triiimph of his oanse, amid aU the fean and forebof^^
had been led to entertain, — ^we areinelinedto aacribe to it ajn^-eminentTaloe among the
gmaUer pioduotiona of Dr Owen. It is Tory tefirom being of merely ephemeral intereet
It was reprinted in 1822, whoi the daims of the Roman Catholics to be admitted into
Parliament were nndor dlBonasion. To this edition there was prefixed a letter, ad dro a wd
to Mr Wilberforo^by Biahop Burgees; and from the following extract it will be aeeiim
what estimation that aooomplidied prelate held this brief treatise: ** The extensiTe know,
ledge, the powerM intellect, the ardent piety of Dr Owen, are too wdl known to yon to
require eukgiam or reoommendatkm. The little tract which I haTe reprinted, and which
lam desirons of sobmitting to your pemsal, is distingnJHhed by all his talents^ and is cal-
eolated to excite feelings superior to any considerations of partial and ten^Kiraiy poUej."

L The first part of the tract is oooiqued with an aoooont of the Protestant religioa^ —
generaO^, in its origiD aod prinoiplea; asd then mora jMrttfoMbr^, as it is opposed to
Popeiy. He specifies the fSar essential eloneots in Protestantism, trom which the Be-
formation took its rise and character : — 1. Some great apostasy had been tom/UMi ia
Scripture; 2. The Church of Bome embodied this predicted apostasy; 8. All trae
Chrutians were bound to separate from this antichristian church; and, 4. It was their
duty not merely to separate from it, but to maintain a public protest agunst its ecron
and abominationa. IL Then foUowt m account of the way in idnch Prot^stantasnn had
arisen; of the costly sacrifices made in order that it mig^it be established, its xnartyn
exceeding in number those who had fallen under the Pagan porseoutions; and, lasUy,
of the happy effects whidi had ensued from the Beformation, not merely to Protestanl
nations, but even in countries where thou^ Popeiy still reigned, it was held in cbedc
by the contiguity of Protestant light and freedom, and the possibility, that now existed
of turning against it "the balance of power." ni The political weakness of Prolea-
tantism, from its manifold diyisions, is exhibited, and the importance is urged of eatah-
liahing a great Protestant interest throughout EuropeL IV. Then follows a diacaaaiea
of the probable way in which the Papacy may regain predominance ; — either by d^xUem,
or foree^ or reooneiUoHan, The author dweUs (£efly on the danger to be apprehended
from ^e last source, inasmuch as some learned men now conceded % patriardud prima a/
to the Bishop of Bome ; noyel opinions had been widely spread, which, so ftr as th^ set
aside the doctrines of graces narrowed the difierenoe between Popery and Protestantism ;
it was now denied that the Pope was Antichrist ; atheism prerailed; vital religion was
at a low ebb ; the deigy, losing confidence in the spiritual power of truth, souglit ta
retain their influence over the people by recourse to superstitious expedients and ^ipli-
anoes, such as Romanism sanctions ; and, lastly, forge^^ilness of the persecuting qjirit
of Popery induced many to bethink themselyes of an ** ecclesiastical coalescency with
the Church of Rome." Y. The folly and wickedness of such a movem^t are exposed.
The tract closes by stating the grounds of hope amid proTailing discouragements, and
the true means for the presenration of ProtestantiBm, — ^in prayer, union, and repentanoiL

The works of Owen are commonly more exhaustiTe than suggestive; but the foUa»^
ing tract is an exception to the truth of the remark, and no analysis can do justioe to
the range of thought embraced in it. His views as to the danger of recondliatioii
being attempted with Rome may be thou^t extravagant, but accord with an appre-
hension entertained by many British Protestants at the time, and which there was much
to justify in the notorious leanings of the Court See ** Neal's History," vol. It. 45S,
468. Louis Du Moidin, professor of History at Oxford, published in 1680 "A ^lart
and True Account of the Several Advances the Church of England hath made towards
Rome ; or, a model of the grounds upon which the Papists for these hundred years have
built their hopes and expectations that England would ere long return to Popery."
While no authors have done more effective service in the controversy with Rome than
Tillotson, Temson, Stillingfleet, and other divines of the English Church, the necessity
which they felt to engage in a vigorous exposure of the errors of Popery, as well as the
spirit and scope of their treatises in many instances, indicate that they too wrote under
feelings of alarm lest, through the Romanizing policy of the Court, the Anglican Estah-
liflhment should revert to the Papacy. — ^Ea

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THRwodcLis atitins day filled with disoooiBei atxmt Hie protestani
religion andithe prafesBLon oC it; and tiiat not without causa The
public, qipoflition. that is made unto it» tiie designs that am managed
with poUcy and power for its utter extirpation, and the confidence of
many that they will taka effect, must needs Mi the minds of Ihem
whose principsd interest and concerns lie in it with many thoughts
about the evaiitr Nearerwas thene a greater cause brought on the
stage for a trial; — a. came whevein the glory of Ood is concerned
above;any thing at this day in thawoiid; a cause wherein the most
eminent prevailing powvrs of the earth are TisiUy engaged as unto
its nmvand whereunto alLthe diabolioal aits of men are emjdqyed;
a cause, wherein those who embrace that religion do judge that not
only their liyesy but the eternal wel&re of them and their posterity^
is inaTiiabfy ooncpmed. This cannot but fill the minds of all men
with Tarious conjectures about the issue of these things, according as
their interest works in. theuL by hopes and ieais. Some of them,
therefore, do endeaTOur, by their counsels and other ways^ for the
presenration and continuance of this protestant religion amongst our*
selves, aoooording as.thqr have an accession unto public afiSsurs; and
some, whose lotis cast into a private capacity, do engage foith and
pcayer nnto thasamapurpoaa The enemies of it^ in the meantime^
are powerful, active, and restless; many amongst us being uncertain
in their minds^. as. not resolved where to fix their interest; and a
greater multitude, like Oallio, care for none of these things. Thift
bemg a matter, therefore, wherein all men, who have any sense of
religioDy.are so deeply concerned, it may not be unseasonable briefly
to inquirs, What is this protestant religion which is so contended
about? what is its present state in the worid? what its strength and
weakness^ as tmto.its public profenion? and what is like to be th^

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issue of tlie present contest? This is that which the ensuing leaves
are designed unto; and it is hoped they may be of use unto some, to
extricajbe their minds from involved, firuitless thoughts, to direct them
in their duty, and to bring them unto an aoquiesoency in the will of

The piotestant religion may be conadered either as it is religion
in general, — that is, Christian religion; or as it is distinct from and
opposite unto another pretended profession of the same religion,
whereon it is called Protestant

In the first sense of it; it derives its original from Christ and his
apostles. What they taught to be believed, what they commanded to
be observed in the worship of God, — all of it, and notiiing but that, —
is the protestant religion. Nothing else belongs unto it; in nothing
else is it concerned. These, therefore, are the principles of the reli-
gion of Protestant^ whereinto their faith and obedience are resolved.

1. What was revealed unto the church by the Lord Christ and his
apostles is the whole of that religion which Grod will and doth accept

2. So £sff as is needful unto the faith, obedience, and eternal sal-
vation of the church, what they taught, revealed, and commanded is
contained in the Scriptures of the New Testament, witnessed unto
And oonfirmed by those of the Old.

3. All that is required of us that we may please Qod, be accepted
with him, and come to the eternal enjoyment of him, as, that we
truly believe what is so revealed and taught, yielding smcere obe-
dience unto what is commanded in the Scriptures.

Upon these principles Protestants confidently propose th^ reli-
^on unto the trial of all mankind If in any thing it be found to
deviate from them, — if it exceeds, in any instance, what is so revealed,
taught, andoooamanded, — if it be defective in the £uth or piactioe of
any thing that is so revealed or jcommanded, — ^they are ready to re-
nounce it Here they live and die; from this foundation they will
not depart: this ie their religion.

And if these principles will not secure us, as unto our present ac-
ceptance with God in religion, and the eternal enjoyment of him, he
hath left all mankind at an utter uncertainty, to xnake a blind ven-
ture for an invisible world; which is altogether inconsistent with his
infinite wisdom, goodness, and benignity.

Being in possession of these principles of truth and security from
Christ imd his apostles, it belongs imtothe protestant religion not to
change or forego them, and to repose our confidence in the infieJli-
bility or authority of the pope of Rome, or of the church whereof he
is the head. For these principles of assurance are such as every way
become the wisdom and goodness of God; and such as that our
nature is not capable in this life of those which are higher or of

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a more illustrious evidenca Let the contrary unto either of these
be demonstrated, and we will renounce the protestant religion. To
for^o them for such as are irreconcilable unto divine wisdom and
goodness, as also to the common reason of mankind, is an effect of
the highest folly and of strong delusion.

For that all mankind should be obliged to place all their confi-
dence and assurance of pleasing Qod, of living unto him, and coming
unto the enjoyment of him for eternity, on the pope of Rome and
his infallibility, however qualified and circumstantiated, considering
what these popes are and have been, is eternally irreconcilable unto
the greatness, wisdom^ love, and kindness of Gk>d, as also unto the
whole revelation made of himself by Jesus Christ The principles of
protestant religion before mentioned do every way become, are highly
suited unto, the nature and goodness of Qod^ — no man living shaU
ever be able to instance in one tittle of them that is not correspon-
dent with divine goodness and wisdom;. — but on the first naming of
this other way, no man who knows any thing what the pope is, and
what m his chmx;h, if he be not blinded with prejudice and interest,
will be able to satisfy himself that it is consistent with infinite good-
ness and wisdom to conmiit the salvation of mankind, which he values
above all things, unto such a security*

Neither hadi this latter way any better consistency with human
wisdom or the common reason of mankind^ — ^namdy, that those
who are known, many of them, to be better and wiser men than those
popes, should resolve their religion, and therein, their whole assurance
of pleasing Ood, with all their hopes of a blessed eternity, into the
authority and infallibility of the pope and his church, seeing many
of them, the most of them, especiaUy for some ages, have been per-
sons wicked, ignorant^ proud, sensual, and brutish in their live&

This, then, is the foundation of the protestant religion, in that it
is built on those principles which are every way suited unto the
divine nature and goodness^ as also satis&ctoiy unto human reason^
with a refiisal of them which are unworthy of infinite wisdom to give,
and the ordinary reason of men to admit or receive.

Secondly, As the name Protestant is distinctive with respect unto
some other pretended profession of Christian religion, so it derives
this denomination firom them who in all ages, after the apostasy of
the chmxsh of Rome came to be expressly antichristian, depsoted from
the conununion of it, opposed it, reformed themselves, and set up the
true worship of God according unto the degrees and measures of
gospel light which they had received.

This was done successively in a long tract of time, through sundry
ages, until, by an accession of multitudes, princes and people, unto
the same profe^on, they openly testified and protested against the

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034 THE BTATB A)n> 9^TE or

papal apostasy and tyranny; tdienoe they became to hb oommonly^
called Protestants. And the principles wbereon they all «f tliem
proceeded from 'first to last, which constitute their re%iim as pro-
testant, were these that follow: —

1. That there are in the Seripture, prophecmSy prodictiooBy and
warnings, especially in the book of tlvs Revelation mnd the Seooiid
Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Tbessalonians, that there shoQM be
a great apostasy or defection in the visible dburbh from the £Bdth,
worship, and holiness of the gospel ; and, m opposition unto what wms
appointed of Ohrist, the erection of a worldly, carnal, antidiTifltia&
church-state, composed of tyranny, idolatry, and persecution, whidi
should for a long time oppress the true worshippers of Cfarist with
bloody cruelty, and at last be itself *^ consumed with the spirit of his
mouth, and destroyed by the brightness of his ooimng.''

This defection was so plainly foretold, as also the b^inning of it,
in a "mysteiy of iniquity,'" designed even in the days of the apostles,
that believers in all ages did e:!^ect the accomplishment of it by the
introduction of an antichristian state and power, though the nmrn^r
of it was hidden from them, until it was really fulfilled I aay, from
the days of the apostles, and the ^ving out of those propheoes and
predictions of the coming of antichrist and an apostate churcb-state

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 64 of 67)