Andrew Thomson John Owen.

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Scripture revelation against moderation; wh^ in the revelation of
the will of Qod contained in the Scripture, moderation is so nmdr
commended unto u% and pressed npon u& But against the pretended
necessity oi resigning ouraelvea to the Bomanbts, for a reUef against
the unavoidable ignorance of our state and oondition, be^des that we
know full well such a resignation would yidd us no relief at aU, this
plea of the sufficiency of Scripture revdation ia full and unansweraHe.
This put our author on a work which I have formerly once or twice
advised him to med(fle no more; being well assured that it is neith^
for his reputation nor his advantage, much less for his soul's healtk
The pretences which he makes use of are the same that we have
heard of many and many a time: — the abuse of it by some, and the
want of an infallible interpreter of it as to ua alL But the old tale
is here anew gilded with an intermixture of other pretty stones^ and
application of all to the present humours of men; not forgetting to
set forth the braro estate of our forefathecs, that had not the use of
the Scripture: which what it waa we know well enou^h^ and better
than the prejudices of this, genldeman will give him leave to ixR u&
But if the law&l and necessary use of any thing may be decried be*
cause of its abuse, we ought not only to labour [for] the abolishing of
all Christian religion in geneml, and eveiy principle c^it in particular^



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ENTITLBD FIAT LUX. 57

out of the worid, but the blotting out of the sun, and moon, and
Stan, out of the firmament of heaven, and the destruction of the
greatest and most noble parlSy at least, of the whole oreation. But as
the apostles cootiaDJaed in the work of preaehing the gospel, though
by some the grace they taught '^was turned into lasdviousnesa;'" sa
shall we abide to plead for the use of the Scr^yture, whatever abuse
of them by the wicked lusts of men can be instanced in. Nor is
there any reason in the woiid why food should be kept bom all men,
though some have suffeited^ or may yet so do. To have a compen<£-«
ous narration of the story and morality of the Scripture ia the room
of the whole, which our author allows (^ is so jejune, narrow, and
empty a conceptioD, — so unansweraiUe to all those diviBe testimonies
givea to the excdlency of the word of Qod, with preoepts to abkle ia
the meditatum and study of it, to grow in the loiowledge of it and
the mysteries contained in it, the comxaendaitioiis of ihem that did
so in die Scripture ited^ — so blasphemously darogadory to the good-
ness, love^ and wisdom of God in granting us that inestimable benefit,
— so contraiy to the redoubled exhortations of all the ancient fathers,
— that I wKmder any one who daires pretend to have read it, or to be
a Christian, can own. and aiow sudi a nbtkm. All the fine stories,
allusions^ and speculations about madness, thast he ia pleased to
flourish withal in this matter, are a covering too short dOkA narrow to
hide that wretched contempt of the holy word of the great God whidt
in these notions discovers itself. Men who by corrupt principles have
been scared from the study of the Scripture, or by their lusts kept
from its serious perusal, or attendance unto it, — that value not the
authority of God, of Christ, or his apostles, commanding and requir-
ing the diligent study of it, — that disregard the glorious mysteries
revealed in it, on set purpose that we might all come to an acquaint-
ance with them, — and so, consequently, that have had no experience
of the excellency or usefulness of it, nor lie under any conviction of
their own duty to attend unto it, — ^may perhaps be glad to have their
lusts and unbelief so far accommodated, as to suffer thenoselves to be
persuaded that there is no need that they should any fortber regard
it than hitherto they have done; but " in vain is the net spread
before the eye of any thing that hath a wing." For them who have
tasted the sweetness of the good word of God, who have attained any
acquaintance with its usefulness and excellency, who have heard the
voice of God in it, making the knowledge oi his will revealed therein
of indispensable necessity to the salvation of their souls; believe me,
sir, all your rhetoric and stories, your pretences and flourishes, will
never prevail with them to cast away their Bibks, and resolve for the
fiiture to believe only in the. pope. Of the interpretation of the
Scripture I have spoken before, «id showed sufficiently that neith^



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5a AKIMADYEBSIONS ON A TBEATISS

are we at any such a loss therein as to bring us to any uncertainty
about the principles of our religion; nor, if we were, have we the
least reason to look for any relief from Borne. When I happen upon
any of these discourses, I cannot but say to myself What do these
men intend ? Do they know what they do, or with whom they have
to deal ? Have they ever read the Scriptures, or tasted any sweet-
ness in it ? If they instruct their disciples unto sudi mean dioughts
of the holy word of God, they undo them for ever. And if I meet
with these bold efforts against the wisdom of God twenty times, I
cannot but still thus startle at them.

The two following motives, being taken up, as far as I can appre-
hend, to give our author an advantage to make sport for himself and
others, in canvassing some expressions and discourses of our talkative
times, and the vulgar, brutish management of our differences by some
weak, unknowing persons, need not detain us. Did I judge it a
business worthy of any prudent man's consideration, it were easy to
return him for his requital a collection of the pretty prayers and de-
votions of his good Catholics, of their kind treatment one of another,
or the doughty arguments they make use of amongst themselves and
agsdnst us, abundantly enough to repay him his kindness, without
being beholden to any of those legends which they formerly accom-
modated the people withal, in room both of Scripture and preaching,
though of late they begin to be ashamed of them*



CHAPTER V.

Obscurity of God, etc.

Chap. II. Unto the ensuing whole chapter, wherein our author
expatiates with a most luxuriant oratory throughout, and ofttimes
soars with poetical raptures in setting forth the obscurity and dark-
ness of all things, our ignorance and disability to attain a right and
perfect knowledge of them, canting by the way many of those pretty
notions which the philosophical, discoursive men of our days do use
to whet their wits upon over a glass of wine, I have not much to
offer; nor should I once reflect upon that discourse, were it not de-
signed to another end than that which it is ushered in by, as the
thing aimed to be promoted by it. Forbearance of one another ia
our several persuasions, on a sense of our infirmity and weakness, and
the obscurity of those things about which our minds and contempla*
tions are conversant, is flourished at the entrance of this harangue:



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX 69

after a small progress, the snake begins to hiss in the grass, and in
the close openly to show itself in an enticement unto an embracing
of the Boman religion ; which, it seems, will disentangle our minds
out of that maze about the things of God and man in which, without
its guidance, we must of necessity wander for ever. As for his philo-
sophical notions, I suppose they were only vented to show his skill
IB the learned talk of this age, and to tole on the gallants whom he
hath most hope to inveigle, knowing them to be candidates for the
most part unto that scepticism which is grown the entertamment of
tables and taverns. How a man that is conversant in his thoughts
about religion, and his choice ot or settlement therein, should come
to have any concernment in this discourse, I cannot imagina That
Gfod, who is infinitely wise, holy, good, who perfectly knows all his
own excellencies, hath revealed so much of himself, his mind and
will, in reference to the knowledge which he requires of himself and
obedience unto him, as is sufficient to guide us whilst we are here
below, to steer our course in our subjection to him and dependence
on him, in a manner acceptable unto him, and to bring us to our
utmost end and blessedness in the enjoyment of him; — this Protest-
ants think sufficient for them, who as they need not, so they desire
not, to be wise above what is written, nor to know more of God than
he hath so revealed of himself, that they may know it Those barren,
fruitless speculations which some curious serpentine wits, casting off
all reverence of the sovereignty and majesty of God, have exercised
themselves in and about, even in things too high and hard for them,
darkening counsel and wisdom by words of pretended subtilty, but
real folly, are fitter to be exploded out of the world than fomented
and cherished in the minds of men.

Nor doth that discourse about God and his essence, which lies
before us, seem to grow on any other roots than ignorance and curi*
osity : ignorance of what it is that God requireth us to know of him,
and how; and curiosity in prying into and using words about what
we do not understand, nor is it the mind of God that we should.
Were poor sinners thoroughly sensible of their ovm condition, and
what acquaintance with God their concernment doth lie in, they
would little value such vain towering imaginations as some men's
minds are exercised withal. Come, sir, let us leave these vain
flourishes, and, in deepest abasement of soul, pray that we may know
how " the Father, whom no man hath seen at any time, is revealed
by the only-begotten Son, who is in his bosom;" — ^what he is in his
law towards impenitent sinners, what in the covenant of his grace to
them that fly for refuge to the hope that is set before them; — even
" that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would
give unto us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of



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60 AKIMADYBBSIOKS ON A TRSA.TISE.

him; that the eym of our understanding being enlightened, we may
know what is the hope of his calling, and what the ziches of tb&
glory of bis inheiitance in the aaii^ and what is the exeeeding
greatness of his power towante them that believe, aooording ta
the working of the might of his power, yiiinch he wrought in Christy
when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand-
in heavenly places;" — ^thal our hearts may be comforted, being
knit together in love, and unto all riches of the FULL ASSUBANCE OP
XTNr^BRSTANiHKG, to the acknowledgment of the myst^ of Qod, and
of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures o£
wisdom and knowledge," and by whom alone we may obtain, any
saving acquaintance with them; '^ who also is come, and hath given
us an understanding that we may know him that is true."

This is the port-haven of Protestants^ whatever real darknes9 may
be about them, or whatever mists may be cast oni them by the sleights
of men that lie in wait to deceive, — that they need know no more of
God, that they may love him, fear him, believe in him, and come to*
the enjoyment of him, than what he hath clearly and expressly in
Christ revealed of hims^ by his word. Whether the storms of thi»
gentleman's indignation be able to drive them, or the more pleasant
gales of his eloquence to entice them from this harbour, time wUl show*
In the meanwhile, thai indeed they ought not so to do, nor will doi
so with any but such as are resolved to steer their course hy some
secret distempers of their own, a few strictures on the most material
passages of this chapter will discover.

It is scarce worth while to remark his mistake, in the foundation
of his discourse, of the ^^ Obscurity of God," as he is pleased to states
the matter, from that of the prophet, asserting that '^ God is a God
who hideth himself," or, as he renders it, a ^ hidden God." His own
prophet will tell him that it is not concerning the eaB«:ice of Godv
but the di^nsation of his love and favour towards his people, that
these words were used by the prophet of old ; and bo are unwillingly
pressed to serve in the design he hath in hand. Neither are we
more concerned in the ensuing discourse of the " soul's deaving to
God by affection," upon the metaphysical representation of his ex-
cellencies and p€»rfections unto it, it being purely Platonical, and no
way suited to Uie revelation made of Gbd in the gospel; which ac-
quaints us not with any such amiableness m God as to endear the
souls of sinners unto him, causing them to readi out the wings of
their love after him, but only as he is in Christ Jesus reconcilii^ the
world to himself; — a consideration that hath no place, nor can obtain
any, in this flourish of words; and the reason is, because they are
sinners, and therefore, without the revelation of an atonement, can
have no other apprehension of the infinitely holy and righteous God



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. 61

btrtas of a devcrarrngfire, witli whom no smnercan mfaabit: nor yet in
the aggravation of the obscunty of Ckxi from the restless endeavours
of masikind in the disquisition of him] who, as he sajs, ** show their
love in seeking him, havmg at tiieir birth an equal right to his favour,
which tiiey oouU nowise demerit before they were bom/' — being
xlirectiy oomtnoy to tiae doctrine of his own chnrdi, in the head of
ordinal siti.

thiJt which first draws tip towards the design he is in pursuit of
ifi his determination, ^that the issuing of men's perplexities in the
investigation of this hidden God mnst be by some prophet or teacher,
sent from Ood unto men;" but the uncertainty o( coming into any
bett^ condition thereby is so exaggerated by sl contempt of those
"Ways and means that such prophets have ifited on to evidence their
coinmg forth from Ood, by miracles, visions, jm)phecies, a show of
flanotity, with a concourse of threats and promises, as that means
4^80 is cashieted from yielding us any relief Neitiier is thene any
Idling intimated or offered to exempt the true prophets of God, nor
the Lord Ohrist himself, from being shuffled into the isame bag with
ialse pretenders, in tine olose, tiiat were brought forth to play their
game in this pageant Yea, the difficulty put upon this help, of the
fees we are at in the knowledge of God by prophets and pn^edes,
seems especially to reqpect those of the S^pture, so to manifest the
necessity of a farther evidence to be given unto them than any they
carry about them or bring with than, that they may be usefrd to
1^ end and pmpose: and this intention is manifest a little after,
where the Scriptore is expressly reckoned among tiiose tilings whidi
«11 men boast of,^^none can come to certainty or assumnce by. Thus
Me poor unstable souls ventured to the borders of atiieittn, under a
pretence of leading them to the church ! Was this the method of
Ohrist or his aposties, in drawing men to the faith of the gospel?
1^ the way of the holy men of old that laboured in the conversion
■of souk from gentilism and heresy? Were ever such bold assaults
tag&inst the immovable principles of Ghristianity made by any be-
f^ religion came to be a matter of carnal interest? Is there no
way to exalt the pope but by que^ioning the authority of Ohrist
and truth of tiie Scripture? Truly, I am sorty that wise and con-
sidering men Bhould observe such an irreveraice of God and his word
to prendl in the spirits of men, as to entertain tiioughts of persuad-
ing them to desert ti>eir reUgion by such jMresumptuous insinuations
of tiie uncertainty of all divine revelation. But all this may he made
good on the consideration of tiie changes of men after their profes-
sions of this or that religion, — namely, that notwithstanding their
former pretensions, yet indeed they know nothing* at all, seeing that
''from God and the truth no man doth willingly depart;" which^ if it



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62 ANDCADYEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

be universally true, I dare say there is not one word true in the
Scripture. How often doth Qod complain in the Old Testament
that his people '' forsook him for that which was not Qod 1 " and how
many do the apostles show us in the New to have "forsaken the truth ! "
It is true, that under the notion of God [as] the chiefest good, and
of truth [as] the proper object and rest of the understanding, none
can willingly and by choice depart ; but that the minds of men might
be so corrupted and perverted by their own lusts and temptations of
Satan, as willingly and by choice to forsake the one or the other, to
embrace that which in their stead presents itself unto them, is no
less true than that twice two make four. And it is mere weakness,
and ignorance of the condition of mankind since the entrance of sin,
to conclude that because men may forsake the truth which they
have professed, therefore there is no evidence in that truth whidi
they so forsake; as though truth and its evidence were to be mea-
sured and judged by the carriage and deportment of corrupt and
unstable men towards it Though the sun continue to shine in the
firmament, yet there be a thousand ways whereby men may become
blind, and so rendered imable to see it; and there are no fewer
ways whereby men either wilfully themselves darken the eyes of
their understanding, or suffer them to be put out by others. Shall
the truth be thence calumniated, as though it sent forth no beams
whereby it may be' clearly discerned? Are they not rather justly to
be supposed blind themselves who can entertain such thoughts of it?
We dwell too much on these remote attempts towaixls the special
end aimed at The rhetoric of this discourse is wound up, pp. 76-79,
in a persuasive unto Popery; the substance whereof is, that the
Papacy being rejected, there is a necessity that all men must become
atheists; — ^which requires a little ferther consideration. . He says,
then, " That these dissensions ol ours" (he means of Protestants, one
of whom he most indecently personates) " about the faith, in its
branches, so hot, so various, so extravagant, are apt to infer a suspi-
cion in its very root Are not a hundred in our own country become
atheists already upon that very notion? and these men, supposing
substantial change once made in religion, and deliberately adinitted,
are rather to be commended for their wit than blamed; for they
do but that suddenly which all the land will come to by degree&'^
This in general ; in which entrance into his farther application of
what he had largely, and indeed loosely, before discoursed to his
present purpose, I wish I could find any thing sound. If dissensions
about the faith, however extravagantly managed, are apt to infer a
suspicion in its very root, it is most certain that since the first preach-
ing of it, or within a few years after its first revelation, causes of sus-
picion have been given, and will be given, and it is the mind of Qod



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ENTITLED FIAT LUX. 63

bLouIcT be given, who said, " There must be heresies, that the approved
may be tried/' And this very argument did Celsus press against
Christianity almost fifteen hundred years ago: which is worthily an-
swered by Origen; nor is there need of adding any thing to what
that excellent man replied unto one of the first coiners of this objec-
tion. The truth is, our dissensions are evils, — our evils, — ^the evils
of men that are engaged in them; and yet, it may be, not all out so
evil in themselves as is pretended: they are far enough from merit-
ing the title of, " Lo, here is Christ,'' and, " Lo, there is Christ" Pro-
testants are all of them well enough agreed who is Christ, and where
alone he is to be found. If they jump not wholly into the same
conceptions about some few things of less importance in the way and
manner of the worship of Christ, it is no more but what hath been
the lot of the best of men, ever since Christ was preached on the
earth, that were not infallibly inspired. Such contests ever were;
and he that knows what men are, will have little cause given him
to suspect the truth of the foundation of that about which they con-
tend. Nor is any ground of such suspicion administered by these
differences: men of corrupt minds may take occasion from them to
vent the enmity which is in their hearts against the faith; ground
of suspicion none is given unto them. Nay rather, it is a strong
evidence of the certainty of the faith in general, that all those who
contend about the branches of it do every one of them charge one
another vdth the failure; and all agree that the frdth itself about
which they contend is certain, sure, and stable. And I hope the
gentleman is mistaken in the calculation of the numbers that are
become atheists in our country: or if he have brought them to the
poll, I do not believe that he hath taken a particular account of the
occasions and reasons that cast them on that commendable piece of
'Vit," as he styles it; and so knows not but that they may have been
made witty by some of those ways whereby, if a learned friar may
be believed, thare were no less than sixty thousand become atheists,
and that not of Protestants, but good Catholics, in one city in our
neighbouring nation. But this falls out, saith he, by a '^ supposal of
a substantial change made in religion, and deliberately admitted."
This indeed were something; but who ever supposed so? The religion
of Jesus Christ is the same "once delivered unto the saints." This is
still one and the same, " yesterday, to-day, and for ever," — ^unalterable
as Christ hiinsel£ Men, indeed, who are liars, are changeable worms ;
and many, as to their profession in religion, alter, change, turn, apos-
tatize, vdth or without deliberation; but he that shall thence con-
clude that his best course is speedily to be an atheist, will not deserve
much commendation for his wit, less for his wisdom, and for his grace
pone at all That the land will come to atheism by degrees is the



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64 ANIMADVEBSIONS ON A TREATISE

prognostioation of oiir author, calculated from the meridian of Rome.
For my part, I fear not such kind of prophets. Protestant religion
hath, by the blessing of God, retrieved the nation from the doors of
atheism, and kept it safe ahnost these hundred years, notwithstand-
ing the wofiil miscarriages of some that hare professed it Why
they must now all by degrees turn atheists, I know no reason to fear,
nor presume doth our author, but that be is prompted to like his
conjecture by his love to his countrymen, desiring they may follow
them who are so commended for their wit

But we must proceed with the improvement of this conaderation.
Page 11, — ^*' If the Papist, or Roman Catholic, who first brought the
news of Christ and his Christianity into the land, as all men must
needs know that have either heard or read of Christianity's ingress
into En^and, or other countries and kingdoms (for we do no sooner
hear news of Christianity than Popery, and its crudfixes^ monas-
teries, relics, sacrifice, and the like); I say, if the Papist be now
become so odious, as we see be is, and if the faitii he brot^t and
maintained a thousand years together be now rent all asond^ by
sects and &ctk>n8, which bandy all to the ruin of that mo&er re-
gion, — ^if all her practical truths, wherein chiefest piety cooasts, be
abeady abattdoned as erroneous,— doth not this justify the Pttgan
whom this Catholic Christian displaced to make wib^ Jbr his own
law? And must not this be a certam way md means to introduce
latiieism, which natumUy follows that &ith once Teaaoved, even as a
^carcase succeeds a liraig body once deceased! For, one truth de-
nied, is a fair way to question another which came by the same hand;
•and this, a third; till the very authority of Ite first revealo' be at
stake, whidi can bo more drfend himself than he am his law. Fer
the same axe and instrument that cut down the bncnchee <am cut up
the root too: and if his reverence, forwhich all tiie rest was believed,
defend not their truth, it must needs at length utterly £Edl in his
own; ibr all the authority tjiiey had was purely from him, ^BaoA he
£ails in them before he fails in himBelf,^'-^«^b hyiU" That the Pa-
pists, or Roman Catholics, first brought Christ and his Christianity
into this land is most untrue; and I wonder how any one that hath
read any story of the times that are past should so often aver what
he cannot but know to be imtrue. The gospel m^it have been



Online LibraryAndrew Thomson John OwenThe works of John Owen, Volume 14 → online text (page 8 of 67)