Andrew Thomson John Owen.

The works of John Owen, Volume 14 online

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re-introduction , of Popeiy into any of tiieir territonefl^ will quickly
find what condition of slavery and contempt they have.bnought thegot
selves into; and thereon make the new posture. of afibim very uneasy
to themselves and their rulera Yea^ n,o sociof men will be given iq»
unto more forious.reflections, first. 09 themselves, and then on otfaen^
than they will be, when they find themselves ensnared, Thoee who
on such occasions have neither deceived themselves^ nop suffiored
themselves to be dec^ved by others^ may ei^oy a sedate tcsnquilli^
of mind in all that shall be&ll them; but. theee, when they have
digested the shame of being deluded, will be restless in their mind^
and intent on new occasiona I suppose, therefore, there. is no great
danger, to be feared on this hand, and if there should, that the event
of counsels mixed with so much madness and ingratitude will be a
sudden catastrophe.

(2.) And as unto the clergy, there can be no de£3ction amongst
them, unless it be from a weariness of their present fltati<m, upon tlia
principles of the protestant religion; for they have nM>st of them too
much light to be corrupted any way but by interest. Now the prinr
ciples intended are these two: — [L] That the reviarenoe which thay
claim, and the revenues which they possess, are not due unto them
merely on the account of their offices and the titles which they beajt;

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but oDi that of their faithftil diacili9i]g» Q£ti»dr office in diligeot, hbor
nous preaching of the, goispely aod sedulou8.eQdie&.Yours for the conr
yegnaiou aad edification of the souk of m^i. This priuciple lay at the
fb^ojdatiou of the Seformation^aiid; waa. 000 of the greats, meaiis of
its, promotion. [2.] That, a difitioption. from the peopk by aacred
office requires indispensably, a distinction from them in gravity, uset-
frdnesBi and holinesa of cpnversation. If men shojold grow weary c(
their ^tion in the dexgy on these .prindples (and others the psor
teatant religion will, not afford, them), it is to be feared that on pror
yoking occasions they may verge unto that church-^tate whe^rein all
things desirable unto them in this wodd will be secured on easier
terma And the danger will be incneaaed, if they are capable of envy
and ve^tion from, those, principles of light and liberty, which ha?e
been communicated untp the people by the protestant religion, ren?
dgmxg all expectataona. of reverence and honour but what arisetb
from and is proportionate unto real worth and usefuhiesa altogether
vain. And if hereon, they are ex,po6ed to impreaaiona from the wealthy
ease> and. power propoasd unto them in the papal, churdi, it is to be
f^u'ed that they may. r^pulate themselves by opportunitiea And on
tj^eee g^ounda.not a. few ministers in France, being withal at the
same time under the dread of trouble and persecution, have gone
ovor unto, the adverse, party. In the meantime,.there is some relief
herein, that the generality of mankind is so £Etr enlightened that no
pleas or pretences of other reaaons for such a change or defection will
bear the least admittance, but it will be ascribed unto corrupt affect
t4on and carnal interest. However, if it be contained, as many judge
it is, in the prophecies of the Bevelation, that the churches of the
nations who were once of the communion and in subjection tmto the
church of Borne shall be restored unto her power and possession again^
at least for a short season, this sort of men must be signally instru?
mental therein. And if there be any natioi^ where these two things
concur: — that or ecclesiastical power and jurisdiction is, by
the law of the land, vested in the king, being as unto its whole exerr
cise derived from him. alone, whereby that which he is, the church is,
as to power and jurisdiction, and nothing else; and. where the cleigy
do hold and derive their spiritual power, their power of order and
office, by a flux and descent of it from the church of Bome and the
authority thereof — ^upon the accession of a Papist unto supreme rule,
it will be very difficult, if not impossible, long to secure the public
profession of the protestant religion in. such nationa I say, in this
case, although the protestant religion may be preserved in multitudes
of individuals and their voluntary societies in the communion of it^
yet in such a church-state its public profession cannot long be con*
tinned; for it will qiuckly be dissolved by its own intestine differs

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ences, which every wise man may easily foresee. But the force of
iaw, interest, and inclination is hwily to be withstood.

(3.) The danger of defection from the profession of the protestant
religion in the people must be measured from the preparations for it
that are found amongst them, and the means of their furtheranceL
Now, these are nothing but the vicious habits of the minds of men,
inclining their affections to take shelter in the papal superstitioiL
Such are ignorance, lewdness of conversation, provocations from the
power of religion in others, atheism, and interest^ from hopes of ad*
vantage proposed unto some of them who have an influenoe on
othera There can be no defection unto Popeiy in or among the
people who have ever known any thing of the protestant rehgioii
but what proceeds from these causes, which wholly obliterate aD
sense of its power, all delight in its truth, and di^)ose men unto
any thing wherein they hope they may find a better compliance with
their inclinations, or at least free them from that whereof they are
weary, and wherein they find no advantaga And the means where-
by these things are promoted in them are, want of due instruction,
examples of sin and impunity therein, public discountenance of the
power of religion, personsd and family necessities through pride or
sensuality, with desire of revenge.

Where these things abound in any nation, amongst any people,
there is no security of their stability in that profession of religkm
which yet they avow: for all these things will continually operate in
their minds, and occasions will not be wanting, in the watchful dili-
gence of the devil and his instruments, to excite and provoke their
corrupt lusts unto a dedension fix)m their profession; which with
many of them will be carried on gradually and insensibly, until they
find themselves ensnared in the papal interest beyond what they can
extricate themselves out of.

I shall make no conjectures concerning the ruin or total loss of
the pubUc profession of the protestant religion, from those ways and
means of a general defection from it: for if there were more danger
in them than there is, I know there is yet a way whereby they may
be all defeated; and this being in the hand of Grod alone, wiUi him
it is to be left, and unto his care it is to be committed.

2. Force is the next way whereby the same effect may be produced ;
and this is that which those of the Roman interest do place their
principal confidence in, and it is that which they judge they may
lawfully make use of, whenever they are able so to do. Be the force
esteemed necessary unto this end of what sort it will, — ^be it by private
assassinations, le^ persecutions, national oppressions, foreign inva-
sions,— -all is alike unto them; they are all of them to be made use of
as their sui^>06ed (^portunities do require. That whidi at present

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dotli most encourage their hopes and ezpeGtationSy 6u tiiiB gnmnd of
them, is the power and inchnations of the Freiidi monarch, and the
influence they have on the counsels and actings of other nations
But that wh<de business seems to me, oq muaj aceounts, to be but
''res imius satatis'' at most; many countries may be ravaged and
spoiled, and new woik cut out for another age, but a stated interest
for the papal advantage will scarcely be fixed thereby. They must be
a people of another temper and complexion of mind than our neighr
bouTB are, of a more pofound melancholy and superstition than they
are subject unto, of less vehonent desires of their own, and less sob*-
ject to alter in their designs on provocations and disaj^intments^
who are fit pertinaciously to pursue the advanoement <^ the papal
power and dominion, wherein themselves at length shall be no
sharers. But where there is a concurrence of all these things,**^
namely, an inclination in many of all sorts unto a de&ction, prq>aia«
tions in the minds of more thereunto, the persecution of aooie so
far as the laws will permit^ and just fears of a greater outward forces
— ^relief and safety is to be expected only &om divine power and

8. The third way whereby the public professicMi of die protestaat
religion may be ruined in any nation, or universally, is by a BEOON-*
CUIATION unto the church of Rome. For although this be really of
the same nature and kind with that of the defection before spokes
of, yet seeing it is to be effected by a pretended mutual condesceiH
sbn, it will be averred to be different from a total defection* That
which I intend is a coalescency in the same chuiidi*state, faith, war-;
ship, and rule with the church of Rome, on audi concessions and
reliefs from some present impositions as shall on both sides be agreed
on. And this is the most plausible engine fw attaining the £atal end
designed that can be made use of, and possibly the mort likely to
take effect The pretences of the peace of Christendom, and the
union of Christians (though nothing less be intended than that peace
and union which Christ hath appointed, nor will the peace jHretended
he ever attained by it), are suited to cover and overwhelm men with
reproaches who shall Imt endeavour to discover their falsity and folly*
But the present posture of counsels and affsurs in the wc^ld calls for
somewhat a more distinct consideration of these things^ whidi yet
shall be but preparatory unto what shall be farther discoursed untoe
the same purpose, if the jHrocess in the design do fiurtber manifiBtt

From the very beginning of the Reformation there have beeoa
various attempts for a composition of the diffeiences between the
church of Rome and those who were departed from it Councils of
princes, conventions of divines, imperial edicts, sedate coosultatioiMl

VOL. xrv. 86

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of learned men, have all been made use of mito this end; and all in
vain. And it was for a while the judgment of most wise men, that
the council of Trent had rendered all reconciliations, so much as by a
pretence of any condescension on the part of Rome, utterly impossible;
for it hath bound itself and all the world that will own its authority,
under solemn curses, not to make any change or alteration in the
present state of the papal church, though the salvation of all men
living should depend thereon.

Yet notwithstanding the fixing of this impassable gulf between
the two churches or religions, some persons profesEong the protestant
religion, either angry at their station and disappointments in the
world, or ambitious above their station in the protestant church,
though of the highest dignity attainable in it, or out of an itch or
curiosity of ventii^ their conciliatory notions, as they suppose them,
and so to entitle themselves unto the name of peace-makers, have, in
the foregoing and present age, revived the same fruitless design ; but
hitherto without succesa

But it must be confessed that at present things are more prepared
for the plying of this engine, and making it effectual unto the rtiin
of the protestant religion, than they were in former ages; whereof I
shaU give some instances.

Sundry learned men, who have made themselves of great name
and reputation thereby, have, in their public writings, granted a
patriarchal primacy in the west unto the bishop of Rome, which is
meet to be restored; and therewithal they have relinquished the true
grounds of the Reformation. For whereas the real causes and rea-
sons of it were the idolatry, heresies, and tyranny of the church of
Rome, — ^which every private Christian might understand, and was
bound to separate from in his own person, were there no other of his
mind in the world but himself alone, and had right so to do, — they
have resolved it into the power of a national church in that patriar-
chate, with their supreme dvil ruler, to reform itself from such things
as they esteem abuse& Now, as this is a matter wherein the oon-
sdences of the people or private Christians cure not concerned, so it is
built on sundiy arbitrary presumptions that have not the least coun-
tenance given unto them from the word of God. And as this endea-
vour tends directly to divert the minds of men from the true causes
and reasons of the Reformation, whereon all the martyrs died, so it
leads directly upon a relief against the pretended abuses to return
unto the pope as a head of unity and peace unto all churches, at least
in these western parts of the world; which is all that at present is
pleaded for by many of the Papists themselvea " For the diq>ute,'*
they say, ** about the pope, his power and infEdlibility, you need not
trouble yourselvea Let the bishop of Rome in his succession from St

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Peter be acknowledged as a head of unity and peace linto all Chris^
tians, with a patriarchal power, and no more shall be required of you ,"
that is, at present; for the pope will be pope whilst he is so, — ^that is,
until he is utterly cast out of the church. But by such concessions
as these, the way is preparing for a composition as unto the outward
order and rule of the church.

As unto the internal part of religion, in doctrines of faith, there is
no small advance towards a reconciliation, in the introduction of novel
opinions into the protestant profession; for although, on their first
entrance among us, they were publicly protested against by the Com-
mons of England in parliament, as introductory of Popery, yet their
prevalency since hath been so great as that their abettors are ready
to avow them as the doctrine of the present church. Tet cure they
all of them opposite unto the fundamental principles of the Reforma-
tion, which were to exalt the grace of God and debase the pride of
men; firom the contempt of which principles all the abominations of
the Papacy did arise. And this progress towards a reconciliation is
daily improved by the endeavours of some to lessen all the doctrinal
differences between the Papists and Protestants, and to make them
appear as things not worth the striving or contending about

The same work is carried on by the labours and endeavours of
many in their public writings to divert the making application of
Scripture prophecies and predictions of an apostatical, antichristian
churchnstate unto the church of Roma The persuasion hereof (as it
is a most undoubted truth, wherein the souls of men are concerned)
is the principal means of preserving the body of the people in an
aversation unto Popery. If you can once persuade them that the
pope is not antichrist, that the church of Rome is not that idolatrous,
tjnrannical state foretold in the Scripture, many would be very indif-
ferent how you treat with them, or what composition you shall make
for yourselve& But it is hoped that the broad light which ariseth
from the evidence the pope and his church for many ages have given
of themselves so to be, by their idolatries, persecutions, murders,
Ludferian pride, trampling on the power and persons of kings and
all sorts of persons, in conjimction with the characteristical notes of
times, places, rise, progress, nature, and actings of that church-state
in the Scripture, will not easily be extinguished.

There is no small prevalency in the world of an atheistical princi-
ple lately advanced, — namely, of resolving all respect xmto the public
profession of religion into the wills and laws of men in supreme power.
It is supposed herein that men may be in their own minds of what
religion they please, and be as religious as they will; but, for the
preservation of society, it is meet that the wills of lawgivers, in all
nations, should be the sole rule of the outward profession of religion.

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Now, although this atheistical opmion be destractiTe of C3iri8i»zi
reUgion, oondemning all the prdessors of it^ from its fiiBt entnuice
into the world, of the highest folly imaginable, yet, being suited to
aoconmiodate all the lusts and interests of men profane and ungodly,
it is incredible what a progress in a short time it hadi made in the
world; and those who have imbibed it are ready ibr all such compo-
sitions in religion as may be supposed any way commodious unto
their inclinations and interesta

I dball only mention that which, of all other things, is of the woist
abode, — namely, the loss of the power of religion in all sorts of per-
sona The protestant religion will not anywhere long maintain its
station any otherwise than by an experience c^ its power and efficacy
on the souls of men. Where this is lost through the power of pre-
valent vicious habits of the minds of men, the whde of that religion
will be parted withal at an easy rate; for there is another continually
proposed unto them, with those entertainments for men's fiEmcies and
carnal affections, with those acc(Hnmodations for their lusts^ living
smd dying, with outward secular advantages, that this religion is not
capable o^ nor accompanied withaL

This is that which, guided with an eye to outward advancement,
hath in the last age lost great numbers of the nobility of France and
Poland, and other places, from the profession of the goq)el, whose
suicestors were renowned champions for the truth of it: for to what
end should men entertain a religion which they find no inward spi-
ritual advantage by, and are for the profession of it exposed unto all
sorts of outward disadvantages? And this sort of men will at any
time greedily embrace such a reconciliation with the diurch of Rome
as by the terms of it may a little shelter their reputation, and make
a pretence of satisfying some traditional convictions of the truth which
they had professed.

Moreover, unless it be diligently watched against, weariness is iq>t
to grow on many of the clergy of that spiritual rule and conduct of
the people which, according to the principles of the protestant reli-
gion, is committed unto them : for there hath, by virtue thereof^ so
much light and knowledge been difi^ised among the people, and
such a valuation of their spiritual liberty thereon, which form^ly
they knew nothing of, that there is an exodlent virtue and piety,
with continual care and watchfulness, required unto the rule of
them ; .and yet, when the best of men have done their utmost herein
also, they will meet with that which shall exercise their wisdom and
patience all their days. Neither hath Christ granted any rule or
office in his church on any other terms; nor will the state of his
subjects, who are all volunteers, permit it to be otherwiaa No
wonder, then, if some do like those engines of an easy rule, namely.

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IgncHraoice and blind detotion in the people, and bo are ready to
return unto them again: fcur it is a monstrous wearisome thing for
men of heroic, governing q)irit8 to be oWiged to give . conviction
from the Scripture, mito 6uch persons as they judge impertinent, of
what they do; much more to order their conversation with strictness,
that no offence be taken at them. This posture of things men seem
to be weary of, and therefore do daily relinquish them, so feyr as they
can pretend any consistency between what they do and the rdigion
whidi they profess. But the utter shaking off of those Ixmds and
manacles, unworthy of men of generous spirits^ must needs seem
more eligible unto them; and if hereon such terms of reconciliation
be offered, as shall not only secure imto them their present posses-
sions and dignities, but give them also a prospect of fieulher advance*
ment, it is to be feared that many of this sort will judge it better to
embrace things so desirable than to die in a prison <» at a staka

Besides all these^ there is at present a coincidence of two things
that exceedingly inctine the minds of many unto an ecclesiastical
coalescency with the church of Rome. And these are, — first, an igno*
ranee or forgetfulness oi what the Papacy was, and will again be;
and then a sense of some provocations given, or supposed to be given
them by the protestant religion, or those that profess it Alas ! what
harm hath the Papacy ever done to them i It may be they can give
instances wherein they have had advantage by it, or by them that
belong unto it But every thing which they suppose evil, and find
inconvenient unto their present inclinations, they suspect to proceed
from the principles of the protestant religion, from whence they have
already received many provocations.

These are some of the reasons which make it evident that there
may be no small danger unto the public profession of the protestant
religion (the thing inquired after), from the present design of not a
few, to make a reconciliation of the two religions, and to bring all
men into a coalescency in fsuth, worship, and rule with the church
of Rome. Now, as there is little hope to prevail with them who are
under the power of these things and considerations, or are influenced
by them, by arguments religious and rational, seeing they have all of
them their foundation in such corrupt affections, inclinations, and
interests, as are more deaf than an adder unto such charms; yet^ for
the sake of others not as yet engaged by such prejudices, I shall
manifest in a few instances the foUy and wickedness of attempting
or complying mih any reconciliation with the church of Boma

For, in the first place, be it on what terms it will, it is a renunda*
tion of the fundamental principle of the Reformation, — ^namely, that
the church of Rome is that idolatrous, ahtichristiaji state which is
foretold in the Scriptures. For if it be so, the persons that belong

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unto it may be converted, but the state itself is to be destroyed
And to join ourselves unto, or coalesce in, that church-state, on any
terms whatever, that the Lord Christ hath designed to destruction, is
both foolish in itself, and will be ruinous in the issue unto our souls.

For it will hence also follow that we interest ourselves in the
guilt of all that innocent blood which hath been shed by the power
of that church-state for a dissent from it; for this guilt, — ^which is
next imto that of the church of the Jews in murdering the Head of
the church, and every way equal unto that of the pagan world in the
blood shed in their persecutions, for which it was temporally and
eternally destroyed, — lies charged on this church-state, and will reach
unto all that shall choose an ecclesiastical conjimction therein. And
let such persons flatter themselves whilst they please, and slight these
things as those wherein they are not concerned, they will find them
true to their cost, here or hereafter.

Neither will men of any light or ingenuity easily renounce tiie
whole work of God's grace and power in the Reformation, and cast
the guilt of all the divisions that have been in the world on the part
of the Protestanta For, seeing they have all been on the account
of the church-state of Rome, in opposition whereimto the martyrs
laid down their lives, a coalescency on any terms in and with t^at
church-state doth include a condemnation of all that hath been done
or suffered in opposition thereunto. ** The preaching of the gospel
hath been but a fancy, the suffering of the martyrs was the highest
folly, the glory given to God on these accounts little less than blas-
phemy," is the language of such a coalescency.

The vanity, also, of the terms of reconciliation which are or may
be proposed, is obvious unto all that are not wilfully blind ; for the
church of Rome, preserving its essentially constitutive principles and
its being as such, can make no such condescensions as shall not keep
safe and secure the whole malignity of their faith and worship. When
any thing that hath the show or appearance of a concession, — as, sup-
pose, priests* marriage, the cup unto the laity, and the service of the
church in a known tongue, — ^is proposed, it is natural for all men to

Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 66 of 67)