Life of Dr Owen, by Rev. Andrew Thomson, B.A., Edinburgh


1 His Student-Life

2 His Pastorate

3 His Vice-Chancellorship

4 His Retirement and Last Days

Appendix to the Life of Dr Owen
  1. Epitaph on his Monument
  2. Some letters
  3. His Works

1 His Student-Life

It is matter of just regret and complaint that no elaborate contemporary
memoir of this great Puritan was ever written. Twenty years after his
death, Cotton Mather, in his "Magnalia Americana Christi," declared "that
the church of God was wronged, in that the life of the great John Owen
was not written;" and it was only when twenty years more had elapsed that
a life of Owen at length appeared, from the pen of Mr Asty, a respectable
Independent minister in London; which, though written under the eye of
Sir John Hartopp, a particular friend of Owen, and for many years a
member of his church, is chargeable with numerous inaccuracies, and so
scanty withal, as "not to contain so many pages as Owen has written
books." In addition to this, an equally brief anonymous memoir has fallen
into our hands, professing to have been written by one who "had the
honour to know this eminent person well, and to hear him frequently;
though he must confess that he had not then years and experience enough
to conceive a suitable idea of the Doctor's great worth." But the student
who should wish to search for voluminous contemporary records and early
reminiscences of Owen, will look in vain for such full and accurate
memorials as Dr Edmund Calamy has given us of Howe; for such an
inexhaustible storehouse of incident, and almost redundance of mental
portraiture, as Richard Baxter has given us of himself. The sources from
which the modern biographer must draw his notices of Owen, besides those
already named, are to some extent the representations of adversaries, who
could not be silent on so great a name, or withhold reluctant praise; the
not infrequent allusions to Owen in the lives of his contemporaries; the
statements of general history and biography,--such as are to be found in
the page of Neal, Calamy, Middleton, Palmer, and others; and, perhaps the
most valuable and interesting of all, the many unconscious touches of
autobiography which may be found in his prefaces to his various works. Of
all of these Mr Orme has made excellent use in his Life of Owen; which is
a remarkable specimen of untiring research, solid judgment and ability in
the disposal of his materials, and, making some allowance for honest
bias, of biographical fidelity: and from all of these, and especially
from Mr Orme himself, we shall gather the details of our biographical
sketch and estimate of Owen.
  The genealogy of the subject of our memoir leads us back to a family of
high rank and reputation in Wales, whose remoter links connect it with
the five regal tribes. In the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Queen
Mary, we meet with the name of Lewis Owen as Vice-chamberlain and Baron
of the Exchequer in North Wales, and High Sheriff of the county of
Merioneth; as honoured by correspondence with those monarchs in reference
to the affairs of Wales and as going forth on a commission to clear the
country of those felons and outlaws who had sought refuge in great
numbers among its mountains, during the turbulence and relaxed authority
that had arisen from the long wars between the houses of York and
Lancaster. At a later period this honoured ancestor fell a sacrifice to
his fidelity as a magistrate; for, on his return from the assizes in
Montgomeryshire, he fell into the hands of a band of outlaws, who had
taken a vow of revenge against him on account of the capture of their
companions, and, deserted by all but one faithful friend, was murdered by
them in the woods of Monthrey.
  Humphrey Owen, a branch of this same family, married Susan, a
granddaughter of Lewis Owen; and to him there were born in succession
fifteen sons, the youngest of whom was Henry Owen. Henry was dedicated by
his parents to office in the church, and having received an education, in
language, philosophy, and divinity, at Oxford, in the course of time
became vicar of Stadham, in Oxfordshire. Here he proved himself so
"painful a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord," and so uncompromising
an advocate for reformation in the church, as to receive testimony to his
fidelity in the jealousy and displeasure of the dominant ecclesiastical
powers, and to be branded with the name of "Puritan." To this worthy
vicar there was born, at Stadham, in the year 1616, a second son, John
Owen, the subject of this memoir, who was destined to shed a new renown
on their ancient house, and to eclipse, by the more substantial glory of
his virtues, learning, and genius, the dim lustre of their regal lineage.
  Little is known regarding the childhood of Owen; and no records
whatever have descended to tell us of the mother to whom was committed
the training of his most susceptible years, and who was to be the Monnica
to this future Augustine. There is reason to think that he received the
elements of a common education from the good vicar himself, under the
domestic roof at Stadham; while, after a few years of home education, he
was transferred to a private academy at Oxford, where he entered on his
classical studies under the superintendence of Edward Sylvester, a tutor
of eminence, several of whose pupils rose to the highest distinction, and
even won for themselves at no distant date an undying fame. A comparison
of dates makes it unlikely that the two were playmates; but it is
interesting to notice, that the same quiet institution, in the parish of
All-Saints, which now received within its walls the future great
theologian of the Puritans, was also the place in which was initiated
into the Greek and Roman tongues the immortal Chilling worth,--of whose
great work, "The Religion of Protestants," it is not too much to say,
that it is sufficient to shed honour, not on a university merely, but on
an age. One fact will suffice to show the energy with which the young
pupil applied himself to his studies, as well as the unusually early
development of his faculties, that, at the age of twelve, he was found to
have outgrown the instructions of Sylvester and to be ripe for the
university. He was, accordingly, entered a student at Queen's College at
this age, which, in the case of most youths, would have been most
injudiciously premature, and, even at this period, must have seemed
strangely early; for, in looking into the lives of some of the most
eminent of his contemporaries, we meet with no instance of similar
precocity. Bishop Hall, for example, enrolled himself at Cambridge at
fifteen, while his great Puritan contemporary, John Howe, did not enter
Oxford until he had reached the riper age of seventeen.
  Few men of great eminence appear to have occupied the chairs of the
university at this period; but Owen was fortunate enough to have his
studies in mathematics and philosophy superintended by a tutor of solid
attainments and subsequent high distinction,--Thomas Barlow, then a
fellow of Queen's College, afterwards its provost, and who, in course of
time, was elevated to the see of Lincoln. The boy-student devoted himself
to the various branches of learning with an intensity that would have
unhinged most minds, and broken in pieces any bodily constitution except
the most robust. For several years of his university curriculum he
allowed himself only four hours of the night for sleep, though he had the
wisdom so far to counteract the injurious influence of sedentary habits
and excessive mental toil, by having recourse to bodily recreation in
some of its most robust and even violent forms. Leaping, throwing the
bar, bell-ringing, and similar amusements, occasionally allured him from
his books; and it may perhaps surprise some, who conceive of the men of
that age as unsocial and unfriendly to all the lighter graces and
accomplishments, to learn that Owen received lessons in music from Dr
Thomas Wilson, a celebrated performer on the flute, and the favourite
preceptor in the same elegant and delightful art of Charles I. It may
perhaps have been from grateful recollections of these youthful and
fascinating exercises, in which the student had been accustomed to unbend
from too protracted and severe studies, that Owen at a future period,
when elevated to the vice-chancellorship of Oxford, appointed his early
tutor professor of music in the university.
  Still, the hours which are taken from needful rest are not redeemed,
but borrowed, and must be paid back with double interest in future life;
and Owen, when he began to feel his iron frame required to pay the
penalty of his youthful enthusiasm, was accustomed to declare that he
would willingly part with all the learning he had accumulated by such
means, if he might but recover the health which he had lost in the
gaining of it. And he was wont to confess with a far profounder sorrow,
not unmixed with shame, that no holy oil at this time fed his midnight
lamp; but that the great motive which had borne him up, during those days
and nights of consuming toil, was an ambition to rise to distinction and
power in the church. We can well believe that the severity of this
self-condemnation would, by a judge more tender than himself, have so far
been mitigated by the knowledge of another motive, which must have had
considerable influence upon his mind, arising from the fact that his
father had been unable to render him any adequate pecuniary assistance,
and that he had hitherto been indebted for his support to the liberality
of an uncle in Wales. But still, when more amiable motives have been
allowed their full force, a mere earthly ambition must be acknowledged to
have been the mainspring of all his past efforts; and we cannot doubt
that, when he returned to the university at a future period, these
condemnatory reminiscences arose strongly in his mind, and that, like
Philip Henry in similar circumstances, while thanking God that his course
had been unstained by vices, he could insert in his book, "A tear dropped
over my university sins."
  And here let us pause for a moment, to look at the circumstances of
another student, who was destined at a future day to shine with Owen in
the same bright constellation. While Owen was walking amid the majestic
structures and academic shades of Oxford, or bending over the midnight
page, Richard Baxter might have been seen amid the enchanting scenery of
Ludlow Castle, or, later still, in the small village of Wroxeter, with
little help or guidance from man, but, under the promptings of an
indomitable will, and with an omnivorous appetite for knowledge, allowing
no difficulties or discouragements to damp the ardour of his pursuits.
Without the advantage of the systematic training of a university, or the
command of the rich stores of its libraries, this was almost compensated
to his athletic soul by the more discursive and varied range which both
his tastes and his necessities thus gave to his studies. In the writings
of Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, and Duns Scotus, which to most minds would
have been dry and barren as the sands of the desert, his acute intellect
found high exercise and real delight, and rejoiced in whetting and
exercising on them its dialectic powers, until he could rival in subtle
and shadowy distinctions those ghostly schoolmen. Two years the senior of
Owen, he was also "in Christ" before him; and while the Oxford student
was still feeding the fires of an earth-born ambition, Baxter had learned
from Sibbs' Bruised Reed, and from his Bible, the art of holy meditation;
and, even in the later years of his student-life, might have been seen at
that hour when it was too dark to read and too early to light his lamp,
devoting its sacred moments to thinking of heaven and anticipations of
the "saints' everlasting rest." But the same grace was soon to descend
upon the soul of Owen, and, cooperating with providential occurrences, to
withdraw him forever from the poor daydreams of a mere earthly ambition.
While he was measuring out for himself a course which, if successful,
would probably have made him a secular churchman, and even an intolerant
persecutor, Christ had said of him, "I will show him how great things he
must suffer for my name's sake." Let us now trace the influences and
events which brought about in the mind and outward circumstances of Owen
this mighty change.
  We have no minute information regarding the means by which his mind was
first turned with serious personal interest to the supreme subject of
religion. Perhaps the dormant seeds of early instruction that had been
lodged in his mind under the roof of the humble vicarage now began to
live; perhaps some of those truths which he was storing in his mind as
matter of mere intellectual furniture and accomplishment had unexpectedly
reached his heart; or the earnest struggles on religious questions that
were beginning to agitate the kingdom had, in some measure, arrested the
sympathy of the young recluse; or thoughts of a more serious kind than he
had yet entertained had arisen in his mind, he knew not how, like
invisible and life-awakening spring-breezes; or all these things combined
may have been employed as influences in bringing him at length to "seek
first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." At all events, we have
Owen's own testimony to the fact, that in the later years of his
university life, the Divine Spirit began to work in his soul a new class
of thoughts and emotions; and though it was not until a later period that
he entered upon the full peace and holy liberty of the kingdom of God, he
was brought even then to submit his life to the supreme control of
religious principle, and to ask, " What wilt thou have me to do?"
  While his mind was undergoing this great change, events were occurring
in the government of the university which were fitted to put his
religious principle to the test, and to try it, as it were, by fire.
William Laud having, by a succession of rapid advancements, been raised
to the chancellorship of Oxford, hastened to introduce into it those
Romish innovations which, as the privy councillor and principal adviser
of Charles, and the intimate associate of Strafford, he had already done
much to infuse into the general ecclesiastical policy of the nation. The
naturally arrogant and domineering spirit of this narrow-minded
ecclesiastic, whom even Clarendon describes as "rough of temper,
impatient of contradiction, and arbitrary," had far more to do with those
oppressive measures which marked his fatal ecclesiastical supremacy, than
those mistaken views of the rights of conscience which at this period
dragged so many better and more amiable men into the ranks of
persecutors. Accordingly, we find him requiring the adoption, by the
university, of many of those rites and ceremonials which savoured the
most strongly of Popish superstitions, and in some instances were
identical with them, and which the Reformers of England had soonest
renounced and most severely condemned; the penalty of resistance to this
demand being nothing less than expulsion from the university.
  This bold innovation at once dragged Owen from the privacy of his
student-life into all the stern struggles of a public career. And his
mind, delivered by the fear of God from every other fear, was not slow in
resolving on resistance to the bigoted prelate's intolerant statutes.
Many of the rites which Laud imposed were such as he in conscience
believed to be divinely forbidden; and even things which, if left
unimposed, might have been borne with as matters of indifference, when
authoritatively enjoined as of equal obligation with divine appointment,
he felt ought to be resisted as an invasion of the divine prerogative and
the rights of conscience,--"a teaching for doctrines of the commandments
of men." This was the ground that had been occupied by the Puritans from
the days of Elizabeth, when Ridley and Latimer had "played the man in the
fire;" and though we have no record of Owen's mental exercise at this
period, yet, with the course that was actually taken by him before us, we
cannot doubt that he now unconsciously felt his way to this first Puritan
standing-point, and that the following passage, written by him long
afterwards, expressed the principles which animated his mind and decided
his movements:--
  "They [believers] will receive nothing, practise nothing, own nothing
in His worship, but what is of His appointment. They know that from the
foundation of the world he never did allow, nor ever will, that in any
thing the will of the creatures should be the measure of his honour, or
the principle of His worship, either as to matter or manner. It was a
witty and true sense that one gave of the Second Commandment, 'Non image,
non simulachrum prohibetur, sed, non facies tibi;'--it is a making to
ourselves, an inventing, a finding out ways of worship, or means of
honouring God, not by him appointed, that is so severely forbidden.
Believers know what entertainment all will-worship finds with God. 'Who
has required this at your hand?' and, 'In vain do ye worship me, teaching
for doctrines the traditions of men,' is the best it meets with I shall
take leave to say what is upon my heart, and what (the Lord assisting) I
shall willing endeavour to make good against all the world,--namely, that
that principle, that the church has power to institute and appoint any
thing or ceremony belonging to the worship of God, either as to matter or
to manner, beyond the orderly observance of such circumstances as
necessarily attend such ordinances as Christ himself has instituted, lies
at the bottom of all the horrible superstition and idolatry, of all the
confusion, blood, persecution, and wars, that have for so long a season
spread themselves over the face of the Christian world; and that it is
the design of a great part of the Book of the Revelation to make a
discovery of this truth.
  "And I doubt not but that the great controversy which God has had with
this nation for so many years, and which he has pursued with so much
anger and indignation, was upon this account, that, contrary to the
glorious light of the Gospel, which shone among us, the wills and fancies
of men, under the name of order, decency, and authority of the church (a
chimera that none knew what it was, not wherein the power did consist,
nor in whom reside), were imposed on men in the ways and worship of God.
Neither was all that pretence of glory, beauty, comeliness, and
conformity, that then was pleaded, any thing more or less than what God
does so describe in the Church of Israel, Ezek. 16: 25, and forward.
Hence was the Spirit of God in prayer derided,--hence was the powerful
preaching of the gospel despised,--hence was the Sabbath-day decried,--
hence was holiness stigmatized and persecuted. To what ends that Jesus
Christ might be deposed from the sole power of lawmaking in his church,--
that the true husband might be thrust aside, and adulterers of his spouse
embraced,--that taskmasters might be appointed in and over his house,
which he never gave to his church, Eph. 4: 11,--that a ceremonious,
pompous, outward show-worship, drawn from Pagan, Judaical, and
Antichristian observances, might be introduced; of all which there is not
one word, little, or iota in the whole book of God. This, then, they who
hold communion with Christ are careful of,-- they will admit nothing,
practice nothing, in the worship of God, private or public, but what they
have his warrant for. Unless it comes in his name, with 'Thus saith the
Lord Jesus,' they will not hear an angel from heaven."
  While the well-informed conscience of Owen thus distinctly forbade
conformity, every consideration of seeming worldly interest strongly
pleaded for pliant acquiescence in the statutes of Laud. To abandon
Oxford, was to dash from him at once all those fair prospects which had
hitherto shone before him in his career as a student,--to shut against
himself the door, not only of honorable preferment, but, as it probably
at this time appeared to his mind, of Christian usefulness,--to incur the
inevitable displeasure of that prelate, whose keen and sleepless efforts
to search out all who were opposed to his policy had already subjected
every corner of the realm to a vigilant and minute inspection, and whose
cruel and malignant spirit was already finding desolating scope in the
unconstitutional measures and atrocities of the Star Chamber and the High
Commission. And even though these latter perils might seem to be remote
as yet from his head, yet could he not be blind to the fact, that, by
such a step, he might incur the implacable displeasure of his Royalist
uncle in Wales, who had hitherto supplied him with the principal means of
support at Oxford, and expressed his intention, in case of continued
satisfaction with his conduct, of making him heir to his estates. Yet all
these probable consequences of non-compliance Owen was willing to incur,
rather than violate his sense of duty, "esteeming the reproach of Christ
greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt;" and, at the age of
twenty-one, might have been seen leaving behind him all the daydreams and
cherished associations of more than ten youthful years, and passing
through the gates of Oxford self-exiled for conscience' sake. God was now
educating him in a higher school than that of Oxford, and subjecting him
to that fiery discipline by which he tempers and fashions his most chosen
instruments. But "there is no man that has left house, or parents, or
brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall
not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come
life everlasting." Ten years afterwards the banished student, who had
thus nobly followed the light of conscience, lead where it might, was to
be seen returning through those very gates to receive its highest
honours,--to have intrusted to him the administration of its laws, and
almost to occupy the very seat of power from which Laud had, in the
interval, been ignominiously hurled.
  Owen had "commenced master of arts" in his nineteenth year, and not
long before leaving Oxford, had been admitted to orders by Bishop
Bancroft. He now found a home unexpectedly opened to him in the house of
Sir Philip Dormer of Ascot, who invited him to become chaplain to his
family, and tutor to his eldest son; "in both which respects," says one
of the oldest notices of Owen, "he acquitted himself with great
satisfaction to Sir Robert and his family." After some time, he accepted
the situation of chaplain in the family of Lord Lovelace of Hotly, in
Berkshire, where he appears to have enjoyed much kindness, and to have
been duly appreciated. But meanwhile the rent between Charles and his
Parliament was widening apace. His frequent invasion of the
constitutional rights of the other estates of the realm, his attempts to
rule without a Parliament and to raise money by illegal means, his
systematic violation of his most solemn pledges, his connivance at the
innovating superstitions of Laud, and wanton violation of religious
liberty, at length roused an impatient kingdom to resistance, drove the
Parliament to the last resort of arms, and shook the land with the
discord of civil war. At such a crisis it is impossible for any man to
remain neutral, and it found Owen and his patron of opposite sentiments.
Lord Lovelace took up sums on the side of Charles, and of royal
prerogative; all the convictions and sympathies of Owen were naturally
with the army of the Parliament, and the cause of public liberty. Two
consequences immediately followed from this to Owen,--his leaving the
family of Lord Lovelace, and the complete estrangement of his Royalist
uncle in Wales, who now finally deherited him, and bestowed his estates
and wealth upon another.
  Leaving Berkshire, Owen now removed to London, and took up his
residence in Charter-House Yard. Here he continued to suffer from that
mental depression which had begun with his earliest religious anxieties
at Oxford; and which, though partially relieved at intervals, had never
yet been completely removed. Some influence is no doubt to be ascribed to
the discouraging outward circumstances in which his uncle's conduct had
placed him, in deepening the gloom of those shadows which now cast
themselves across his spirit; but the chief spring of his distress lay
deeper,--in his perplexities and anxieties about his state with God. For
years he had been under the power of religious principle, but he had not
yet been borne into the region of settled peace; and at times the terrors
of the Lord seemed still to compass him about. We have no means of
ascertaining with certainty what were the causes of these dreadful
conflicts in Owen's mind; whether an overwhelming sense of the holiness
and rectitude of God; or perverse speculations about the secret purposes
of God, when he should have been reposing in his revealed truths and all
embracing calls; or a self-righteous introversion of his thoughts upon
himself, when he should have been standing in the full sun-light of the
cross; or more mysterious deeps of anguish than any of these;--but we are
disposed to think that his noble treatise on the "Forgiveness of Sin,"
written many years afterwards, is in a great degree the effect as well as
the record of what he suffered now. Nothing is more certain than that
some of the most precious treasures in our religious literature have thus
come forth from the seven-times-heated furnace of mental suffering. The
wondrous colloquies of Luther, in his "Introduction to the Galatians,"
reflect the conflicts of his own mighty spirit with unbelief; the
"Pilgrim's Progress" is in no small degree the mental autobiography of
Bunyan; and there is strong internal evidence that Owen's "Exposition of
the 130th Psalm "which is as full of Christian experience as of rich
theology, and contains some of the noblest passages that Owen ever
penned--is to a great extent the unconscious transcript of his present
wanderings, and perplexities, and final deliverances.
  But the time had come when the burden was to fall from Owen's
shoulders; and few things in his life are more truly interesting than the
means by which it was unloosed. Dr Edmund Calamy was at this time
minister in Aldermanbury Chapel, and attracted multitudes by his manly
eloquence. Owen had gone one Sabbath morning to hear the celebrated
Presbyterian preacher, and was much disappointed when he saw an unknown
stranger from the country enter the pulpit. His companion suggested that
they should leave the chapel, and hasten to the peace of worship of
another celebrated preacher; but Owen's strength being already exhausted,
he determined to remain. After a prayer of simple earnestness, the text
was announced in these words of Matt.8:26, "Why are ye fearful, O ye of
little faith?" Immediately it arrested the thoughts of Owen as
appropriate to his present state of mind, and he breathed an inward
prayer that God would be pleased by that minister to speak to his
condition. The prayer was heard, for the preacher stated and answered the
very doubts that had long perplexed Owen's mind; and by the time that the
discourse was ended, had succeeded in leading him forth into the sunshine
of a settled peace. The most diligent efforts were used by Owen to
discover the name of the preacher who had thus been to him "as an angel
of God," but without success.
  There is a marked divine selection visible in the humble instrument
that was thus employed to bring peace to Owen's mind. We trace in it the
same wisdom that sent a humble Ananias to remove the scales from the eyes
of Saul, and made the poor tent-maker and his wife the instructors of the
eloquent Apollo. And can we doubt that when the fame of Owen's learning
and intellectual power had spread far and wide, so that even foreign
divines are said to have studied our language in order that they might
read his works the recollection of the mode of his own spiritual
deliverance would repress all self dependence and elation, and make him
feel that the highest form of success in preaching was in no respect the
monopoly of high intellectual gifts; but that in every instance it was,
"not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord?"

2 His Pastorate

  The mind of Owen, now effectually relieved from the burden of spiritual
distress, soon recovered its elasticity and vigour; and in March 1642 he
gave to the world his first literary production,--"The Display of
Arminianism." In all likelihood he had been silently labouring at this
work while in the families of Sir Philip Dormer and Lord Lovelace; more
especially as his mental distress may have had some connection with a
misunderstanding of certain of those points of which the Armenian
controversy touches, and have led to their more full examination. But we
may discover the principal occasion of the work in the ecclesiastical
policy of the period, and in the strain of doctrinal sentiment which that
policy had long aimed to foster and to propagate. Laud and his party had
shown themselves as zealous for the peculiar dogmas of Arminianism, as
for Romish rites and vestment and for passive obedience; and the dogmas
had been received into royal favour because of their association with the
advocacy of superstitious ceremonies and the defense of despotic rule.
Arminianism having thus been constituted the exclusive way to preferment,
had become the fashionable creed; and a current of doctrine had flowed
into the church which was rapidly changing the character of its
ministration, and bearing it away from those safe moorings at which its
own articles and its Reformers had fixed it.
  A remark by Owen, in his address to the reader, correctly describes the
Laudean policy: "Had a poor Puritan offended against half so many canons
as they opposed articles, he had forfeited his livelihood, if not
endangered his life." And in another passage he explains the progress of
Arminianism in England: "The chief cause I take to be that which Aeneas
Sylvius gave, why more maintained the pope to be above the council than
the council above the pope;--because the popes gave archbishoprics and
bishoprics, &c, but the councils sued 'in forma pauperis,' and therefore
could scarce get an advocate to plead their cause. The fates of our
church having of late devolved the government of it on men tainted with
this poison, Arminianism became backed with the powerful arguments of
praise and preferment, and quickly beat poor naked Truth into a corner."
  Owen's "Display" is a barrier raised against prevailing opinions. Each
chapter contains a statement of the Arminian doctrine on the point
discussed, with Owen's answer; while at the end of each chapter the
Armenian doctrine is more briefly stated, in the language of some
Arminian writer, and confronted in opposite columns by passages of
Scripture. Undoubtedly there are some things charged upon the Arminianism
of those times which belong rather to the family of Pelagian errors, and
which the pious Armenian of our own day would at all events repudiate.
Nor is it to be denied that the work is not free, in some parts, of the
fault which clings to so much theological controversy,--that of making
individuals responsible, not only for the opinions they avow, but for all
the consequences that you may deduce from them; yet, withal, it is rich
in matter which must have staggered the courtly theologians of the age,--
is hung all round with massive Calvinistic armour; and, though written in
a more scholastic form than most of Owen's subsequent works, gives
indication of that spirit which was so characteristic of the Puritans,
and preeminently of Owen, and which gave such a depth to their piety,--
the spirit which connected all events with God, and bent with lowly and
awe-struck feeling before the divine sovereignty.
  Owen dedicated his work to "The Lords and gentlemen of the committee
for Religion;" who appointed it to be printed by the Committee of the
House of Commons for regulating the printing and publishing of books. Its
publication is interesting on another account,--as having been the means
of introducing him to his first pastoral charge. The incumbent of Fordham
in Essex having been ejected from his living by the committee for purging
the church of scandalous ministers, Owen was invited by the same
committee to occupy the vacant parish. Not long after his removal to
Fordham, he was married to a lady of the name of Rooks. But nearly all
the information that here descended to us regarding this union, from the
earlier biographies, amounts to this,--that the lady bore to him eleven
children, all of whom, except one daughter, died in early youth. This
only daughter became the wife of a Welsh gentleman; but the union proving
unhappy, she "returned to her kindred and to her father's house," and
soon after died of consumption.
  This period of Owen's early pastorals appears to have been one of the
happiest of his life. Fordham is a secluded village, overhanging the
fertile and pleasing valley of the Stour, which divides Suffolk from
Essex. Its inhabitants, at the present day, number about seven hundred;
but in the days of Owen they could not have been by any means so
numerous. In this retreat, and surrounded by e not very dense rural
population, he was allowed to pursue in peace the quiet duties of a
country parish, and knew nothing as yet of those more public and
distracting responsibilities which he ever undertook with reluctance, and
which he appears to have usually renounced with satisfaction. The
spiritual interests of the parish having been neglected by his
predecessor, he set himself with earnest system to break up the fallow
ground, and to preach those truths which had still to his mind all the
freshness of first love. The good Puritan practice of visiting and
catechizing from house to house gave him a large place in the affections
of his people, as well as revealed to him the measure of their Christian
intelligence; while his solid preaching soon gathered around him the
inhabitants of his own parish, and even allured multitudes across the
borders of the neighbouring parishes to listen to his weighty words. Like
Baxter at Kidderminster, he was ere long cheered by witnessing one of
those widespread and enduring reformations which have never followed on
any agency save the earnest preaching of "Christ. crucified."
  The productions of his pen at this period indicate the current of his
thoughts, and the liveliness of his evangelic zeal. The first of these is
entitled, "The Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished," and was
published in 1643. Its main design is to "describe the means to be used
by the people of God, distinct from church officers, for the increasing
of divine knowledge in themselves and others," and to show how "the
sacred calling may retain its ancient dignity, though the people of God
be not deprived of their Christian liberty." It bears internal evidence
of having been drawn from him by the unscriptural assumptions of those
ecclesiastics who thought to place their interdict on every thing like
the agency of private members in the church, though there are particular
passages aimed at those fiery persons who sought to introduce into the
church the spirit of a wild democracy, and whose mode of making "all the
Lord's people prophet," was to dispense with the inestimable benefits of
a stated ministry. As it is the earliest, so it is one of the most useful
of Owen's smaller treatises, and is remarkable for its skilful
harmonizing of authority with liberty. How much of his axiomatic sagacity
there is in the following sentence: "Truth revealed to any, carries with
it an immovable persuasion of conscience that it ought to be published
and spoken to others!" And how much of wise restraint and rebuke in this:
"Let not them who despise a faithful, painful minister in public, flatter
themselves with hope of a blessing in private. Let them pretend what they
will, they have not equal respect unto all God's ordinances" If Burnet's
"Pastoral Care" and Baxter's "Reformed Pastor" may be named as the guides
and counsellors of the ministers of that age, this, tractate might well
have been placed beside them as the handbook of the people.
  We still trace the signs of the busy pastor in his next publication,
which is entitled, "The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ Unfolded, in
Two Short Catechisms;" the first being intended for young persons, the
second for adults, and as an aid to parents in domestic instruction. We
are reminded, as we look on the stalworth Puritan, who is soon to mingle
in the great theological discussions of the day, thus preparing "milk for
babes," of Johnson's admiring sentence on Isaac Watts: "Providing
instruction for all ages, from those who were lisping their first
lessons, to the enlightened readers of Malebranche and Locke."
  During these years of his labourious and unostentatious pastorals, the
solid reputation of Owen was extending, and on April 29, 1646, he was
appointed to preach before Parliament, on occasion of its monthly fast.
The discourse is founded on Acts 16:9, " A vision appeared to Paul in the
night: there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over
into Macedonia, and help us;" and is written in a style of popular
eloquence by no means characteristic of the usual strain of Owen's
writings. The thanks of the House were conveyed to Owen by Mr Fenner and
Sir Philip Wentworth, and the discourse commanded to be printed. The
evangelic zeal of the pastor of Fordham breaks forth, towards the close,
in behalf of those parts of the empire which were destitute of religious
instruction, and especially in behalf of his ancestral country, Wales:
"When manna fell in the wilderness from the hand of the Lord, every one
had an equal share. I would there were not now too great an inequality
when secondarily in the hand of man, whereby some have all, and others
none; some sheep daily picking the choice flowers of every pasture,--
others wandering upon the barren mountains, without guide or food." The
glowing terms in which he dedicates his sermon to the Long Parliament, as
"most deservedly celebrated through the whole world, and to be held in
everlasting remembrance by all the inhabitants of this island," have
drawn forth the disapprobation of some. But what contemporary opinion has
been more justified by the calm judgment of later history? What English
Parliament ever bore upon its roll such a list of patriots, or surrounded
the immunities of the people with such constitutional guards? Even the
grudging concession of Hume goes so far as to say that their conduct,
with one exception, was such as "to entitle them to praise from all
lovers of liberty."
  Not long after this, Owen's pastoral connection with Fordham was
brought to a close. The "sequestered incumbent" whose place he had
occupied died, and the right of presenting to the living having in this
way reverted to the patron, it was given to another. The event became the
occasion of introducing him to a wider sphere. The people of Coggeshall,
an important market-town of Essex, about five miles distant, no sooner
received the tidings of his deprivation than they sent a pressing
invitation to him to become their minister,--an invitation which the
patron, the Earl of Warwick, immediately confirmed Unlike Fordham, this
new charge had previously been diligently cultivated by a succession of
faithful ministers; so that his work was not so much to lay the
foundation as to build. He soon beheld himself surrounded by a
congregation of nearly two thousand people, whose general religious
consistency and Christian intelligence were a delight to his heart, and
whose strong attachment to him subsequent events gave them abundant
opportunities of testifying.
  Contemporaneously with these outward changes in Owen's position,
considerable changes also took place in his opinions on church
government. His removal to Coggeshall is named as the period at which he
renounced Presbyters; and the order of his church there is field to have
been brought into a closer conformity with the Independent or
Congregational model.
  There were principles, however, retained by Owen, both on the subject
of the ruling elder and of synods,--as we shall have occasion to show in
noticing some of his later writings,--which prove that his
Congregationalism was of a somewhat modified character, and which a
moderate Presbyterian of our own times, though not vaunting as identical
with his views, would yet hail as evidence that the gulf between himself
and the Congregationalist is not impassable. But the Presbyterians of
Owen's early days in general went much farther than those of the present
age; and we deem it not the least of his honours that he refused to
follow in their course. Not that we have any sympathy with those terms of
unqualified censure with which the Presbyterians of that age have too
often been characterized. During the period of their brief supremacy,
they accomplished much for England. In proportion as we value those noble
statements of doctrine, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, must
we be grateful to the Presbyterians, who took so prominent and cordial a
part in those deliberations which produced them. Well-informed and candid
men of other religious parties have not been slow to admit that those
districts of England which were brought under a Presbyterian pastorate
and polity, made visible progress in Christian intelligence and piety;
and many of those measures which were adopted by them in opposition to
Cromwell, and which have often been ascribed to hostility to liberty,
were, in fact, honest endeavours on their part to restore a
constitutional government. But the intolerant spirit which animated them
at this particular juncture is neither to be extenuated nor denied.
  Having recently risen to power, they had become dazzled by the dream of
an impracticable uniformity, and, as Baxter, himself a Presbyterian,
complains, had shown too great a readiness to invoke to their aid in
realizing this ambitious dream the arm of secular power. The endless
diversity of opinion which the growing liberty and the general ferment at
the public mind had occasioned was regarded by them as evidence of the
dangers of unlimited toleration, and they imagined that amid such
discordant sounds truth must be indistinguishable, and even perish from
the earth. Owen's mind had, meanwhile, far advanced beyond these narrow
views, and risen above these imaginary fears. He had boundless confidence
in the vitality of truth,--strong convictions of the power of its own
spiritual weapons, and of the utter impotence of every other: and while
so many of those with whom he hitherto been associated saw only, in the
mingled light and darkness, the approach of night, he hailed in them the
hopeful twilight which was to grow into perfect day. In a "Country essay
for the practice of church government," prefixed to his sermon before
Parliament, he repeatedly condemns all enforced conformity and punishment
of heretical opinions by the sword. "Heresy," says he, "is a canker, but
it is a spiritual one; let it be prevented by spiritual means: cutting
off men's heads is no proper remedy for it." That Owen should have
renounced Presbyters, in the intolerant and repulsive form in which it
was at this time presented to him, is not to be wondered at; but that he
recoiled equally far at every point from all the essential and
distinctive principles of that form of church government is a statement
which many have found it more difficult to believe. At the same time, no
reasonable doubt can be entertained that the government of Owen's church
at Coggeshall was decidedly Congregational; and if that church in any
degree corresponded with the counsels which Owen addressed to it in his
next publication, it must have been preeminently one of those to which
Baxter alludes in that honorable testimony, "I saw a commendable care of
serious holiness and discipline in most of the Independent churches." The
publication to which we refer is "Eshcol; or, Rules of Direction for the
Walking of the Saints in Fellowship according to the order of the Gospel,
1647." The rules are arranged into two parts,--those which relate to the
duty of members to their pastors, and those which specify the duties of
members to each other. They are designed to recall men from debates about
church order to the serious, humble performance of those duties which
grow out of their common fellowship in the gospels. Amid its maxims of
holy wisdom it would he impossible to discover whether Owen was a
Congregationalist or a Presbyterian.
  "Eshcol" was the work of Owen as a pastor; in the following year he was
once more to appear as a theologian and Christian polemic, in a work on
which he had long been secretly engaged,--"Salus Electorum, Sanguis Iesu;
or, the Death of Death in the Death of Christ." The great subject of this
treatise is the nature and extent of the death of Christ, with especial
reference to the Arminian sentiments on the latter subject. It is
dedicated to the Earl of Warwick, the good patron who had introduced Owen
to Coggeshall, and warmly recommended by two Presbyterian ministers as
"pulling down the rotten house of Arminianism upon the head of those
Philistines who would uphold it." Owen himself makes no secret of having
devoted to it immense research and protracted meditations. He had given
it to the world after a more than seven-years serious inquiry, with a
serious perusal of all that the wit of man, in former or latter days, had
published in opposition to the truth. It is not without good reason
therefore, that he claims a serious perusal in return: "Reader, if thou
art as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest
into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again,--thou hast had thy
entertainment: farewell." The characteristic excellencies of Owen's mind
shine out in this work with great lustre,--comprehension and elevation of
view, which make him look at his subject in its various relations and
dependencies, united with the most patiently minute examination of its
individual parts,--intellectual strength, that delights to clear its way
through impeding sophistries and snares,-- soundness of judgment, often
manifesting, even in his polemical writings, the presence and power of a
heavenly spirit, and "expressing itself in such pithy and pregnant words
of wisdom, that you both delight in the reading, and praise God for the
writer." Owen does not merely touch his subject, but travels through it
with the elephant's grave and solid step, if sometimes also with his
ungainly motion; and more than any other writer makes you feel, when he
has reached the end of his subject, that he has also exhausted it.
  In those parts of the present treatise in which he exhibits the
glorious union and cooperation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in
the work of redemption, and represents the death of Christ as part of the
divine plan which infallibly secures the bringing of many sons unto
glory, he has shown a mastery of argument and a familiarity with the
subject-matter of revelation, that leave even the kindred treatise of
Witsius far behind. Many modern Calvinists have, indeed, expressed a
doubt whether, in thus establishing the truth, he has yet established the
whole truth; and whether his masterly treatise would not have more
completely exhibited the teaching of Scripture on the relations of the
death of Christ, had it shown that, in addition to its more special
designs, and in harmony with them, it gave such satisfaction to the
divine justice as to lay a broad and ample foundation for the universal
calls of the Gospel. It is quite true that the great object of the book
is to prove that Christ died for the elect only; and yet there are
paragraphs in which Owen, in common with all Calvinists worthy of the
name who hold the same view, argues for the true internal perfection and
sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, as affording a ground for the
indiscriminate invitations of the Gospel, in terms as strong and explicit
as the most liberal Calvinist would care to use. This great work was the
occasion of much controversy; and it is worthy of especial notice that it
was the first production that turned towards Owen the keen eye of Richard
Baxter, and brought the two great Puritans at length to measure arms.
  Eventful and anxious years were now passing over the land, in which the
long struggle between prerogative and popular right continued to be waged
with various success; and at length Owen beheld war brought almost to his
door. The friends of Charles, having suddenly risen in Essex, had seized
on Colchester, and imprisoned a committee of Parliament that had been
sent into Essex to look after their affairs. Lord Fairfax, the leader of
the Parliament's forces, had in consequence been sent to recover
Colchester and deliver the committee, and for nearly ten weeks maintained
a strict siege before its walls. Coggeshall, being not far distant, was
chosen as the head quarters of the general; and intercourse having been
begun between him and Owen, it became the foundation of a lasting
friendship, which, we shall soon find, was not without important fruits.
At the close of the ten weeks' siege, of which Owen describes himself as
having been an "endangered spectator," he preached two sermons; the one
to the army at Colchester on a day of thanksgiving for its surrender, and
the other at Rumford to the Parliamentary committee on occasion of their
deliverance. These were afterwards published as one discourse on Hab.
  But in the course of a few months, Owen was called to officiate in
circumstances unspeakably more critical. Charles I had been brought to
trial before the High Court of Justice, on the charge of being a traitor,
tyrant, and murderer; and, in execution of its daring judgment, beheaded
before the gates of Whitehall. On the day following this awful
transaction, Owen preached by command before Parliament; and the manner
in which he discharged this unsought and perilous duty, it has been not
unusual to represent as one of the most vulnerable points in his public
life. His sermon, which is entitled, "Righteous Zeal Encouraged by Divine
Protection," is founded on Jer. 15:l9,20, "I will make thee unto this
people a fenced brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they
shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee, and to
deliver thee, saith the Lord,"--a passage which obviously gave him ample
opportunity for commenting on recent events. It is remarkable, however,
that there is throughout a systematic and careful confining of himself to
general statements, the most explicit allusion to the event of which,
doubtless, every mind at the moment was full, being in that two edged
sentence, "To those that cry, give me a king, God can give him in his
anger; and from those that cry, Take him away, he can take him away in
his wrath;" and the charge founded on this constrained silence, from the
days of Owen to our own, is that of selfish and cowardly temporizing.
Even one eminent Scottish historian, dazzled, we presume, by the picture
of his own Knox, with Bible in hand, addressing Mary, and of other stern
presbyters rebuking kings, imagines one of these to have occupied the
place of Owen, and with what fearless fidelity he would have addressed
those august commoners, "even though every hair of their heads had been a
spear pointed at his breast."
  But is there not a considerable amount of undue severity in all this?
In all likelihood those who had demanded this service of Owen blamed him
for an opposite reason, and hoped that this theologian of high renown and
untainted reputation would, in the hour of their extremity, have
surrounded their daring act with something more than the dubious sanction
of his ominous silence. But to ascribe his silence to cowardice, is to
assume that he secretly regarded the destruction of Charles as an
indefensible act of crime. And was this necessarily Owen's judgment? It
was surely possible that, while believing that the party which had
brought Charles to the scaffold had violated the letter of the
constitution, he may also have believed that it was in righteous
punishment of one whose whole career as a monarch had been one long
conspiracy against it, and who had aimed, by fourteen years of force and
perfidy, to establish despotism upon the ruins of popular liberty. He may
have thought that treason was as possible against the constitution as
against the crown, and to the full as criminal; and that where a king
rejected all government by law, he could no longer be entitled to the
shelter of irresponsibility. He may have looked upon the death of Charles
as the last resource of a long-tried patience,--the decision of the
question, Who shall perish? the one, or the million? We do not say that
these were actually Owen's sentiments, but it is well known that they
were the thoughts of some of the purest and loftiest minds of that
earnest age; and if Owen even hesitated on these points, on which it is
well-known Milton believed, then silence was demanded, not only by
prudence, but by honesty, especially in a composition which he himself
describes at, "like Jonah's gourd, the production of a night." 
  Whatever opinion may be formed of Owen's conduct in the matter of the
sermon, there are few, we imagine, that will not look on the publication
of his "Discourse on Toleration," annexed to the sermon, and presented to
the Parliament along with it, as one of the most honourable facts in the
public life of this great Puritan. The leading design of this essay is to
vindicate the principle, that errors in religion are not punishable by
the civil magistrate, with the exception of such as in their own nature,
not in some men's apprehensions, disturb the order of society. To assert
that this great principle, which is the foundationstone of religious
liberty, was in any sense the discovery of Owen, or of that great party
to which he belonged, is to display a strange oblivion of the history of
opinions. Even in the writings of some of the earliest Reformers, such as
Zwingle, the principle may be found stated and vindicated with all the
clearness and force with which Owen has announced it; and Principal
Robertson has satisfactorily proved, that the Presbyterian church of
Holland was the first among the churches of the Reformation formally to
avow the doctrine, and to embody and defend it in its authoritative
documents. Nor is it matter of mere conjecture, that it was on the
hospitable shores of Holland, and in the bosom of her church, that
English fugitives first learned the true principles of religious liberty,
and bore them back as a precious leaven to their own land. It is enough
to say of Owen and his party, that in their attachment to these
principles they were greatly in advance of their contemporaries; and that
the singular praise was theirs, of having been equally zealous for
toleration when their party had risen to power, as when they were a weak
and persecuted sect. And when we consider the auspicious juncture at
which Owen gave forth his sentiments on this momentous subject, his
influence over that great religious party of which he was long the chief
ornament and ruling Spirit, as well as the deference shown to him by the
political leaders and patriots of the age, it is not too much to say,
that when the names of Jeremy Taylor and Milton, and Vane and Locke are
mentioned, that of John Owen must not be forgotten, as one of the most
signal of those who helped to fan and quicken, if not to kindle, in
England, that flame which, "by God's help, shall never go out;" who,
casting abroad their thoughts on the public mind when it was in a state
of fusion and impressibility, became its preceptor on the rights of
conscience, and have contributed to make the principles of religious
freedom in England familiar, omnipresent, and beneficent, as the light or
the air.
  On the 19th of April we find Owen once more summoned to preach before
Parliament, the chiefs of the army being also present; on which occasion
he preached his celebrated sermon, "On the Shaking of Heaven and Earth,"
Heb.12:27. Oliver Cromwell was present, and probably for the first time
heard Owen preach. Ere the sermon was completed, Cromwell had formed a
resolution which the following day gave him an opportunity of executing.
Owen having called at the house of General Fairfax, to pay his respects
to him in remembrance of their recent intercourse at Colchester, was
informed by the servants that the general was so indisposed that he had
already declined to receive the visits of several persons of quality. The
pastor of Coggeshall, however, sent in his name; and while waiting,
Cromwell and many other officers entered the room. Owen's tall and
stately figure soon caught the eye of Cromwell as the person whom he had
heard preach with so much delight yesterday; and going up to him, he laid
his hands upon his shoulders, and said to him familiarly, "Sir, you are
the person I must be acquainted with." Owen modestly replied, "That will
be much more to my advantage than yours." To which Cromwell returned, "We
shall soon see that;" and taking Owen by the hand, led him into the
garden, and made known to him his intention to depart for Ireland, and
his wish that Owen should accompany him as chaplain, and also to aid him
in investigating and setting in order the affairs of the University of
Dublin. To this unexpected proposal Owen naturally objected the claims of
his church at Coggeshall; but Cromwell reminding him that he was about to
take his younger brother, whom he dearly loved, as standard-bearer in the
same army, would not listen to a refusal. He even wrote to the church at
Coggeshall urging their consent; and when they showed themselves even
more averse to the separation than their pastor, Cromwell rose from
entreaties to commands; and Owen, with the advice of certain ministers
whom he consulted, was at length induced to make slow preparations for
the voyage.
  In the interval between these arrangements and his departure for
Ireland, we discover Owen once more preaching before the officers of
state and the House of Commons, on occasion of the destruction of the
Levellers; and about the middle of August we find the army ready to
embark for Ireland. On the day before the embarkation it presented one of
those characteristic pictures which are almost without a parallel in the
history of nations. The entire day was devoted to fasting and prayer;--
three ministers in succession, among whom we cannot doubt was Owen,
solemnly invoked the divine protection and blessing; after which Colonels
Gough and Harrison, with Cromwell himself, expounded certain pertinent
passages of Scripture. No oath was heard throughout the whole camp, the
twelve thousand soldiers spending their leisure hours in reading their
Bibles, in the singing of psalms, and in religious conferences. Thus was
trained that amazing armament, to whom victory seemed entailed,--whose
soldiers combined the courage of the ancient Roman with the virtues of
the private citizen, and have been well described as "uniting the most
rigid discipline with the fiercest enthusiasm, and moving to victory with
the precision of machines, while burning with the wildest fanaticism of
crusaders." There were elements at work here that have seldom gone to the
composition of armies. "Does the reader look upon it all as madness?
Madness lies close by, as madness does to the highest wisdom in man's
life always; but this is not mad! This dark element, it is the mother of
the lightnings and the splendours; it is very sure this?"
  It is no task of ours to follow the course of Cromwell in his rapid and
terrible campaign, in which he descended upon Ireland "like the hammer of
Thor," and by a few tremendous and almost exterminating strokes, as
before the walls of Drogheda, spread universal terror throughout the
garrisons of Ireland, saving more blood than if he had adopted a more
feeble and hesitating course. His policy in Ireland finds its explanation
in two circumstances,--the impression that he had come as the instrument
of a just God to avenge the innocent blood of more than a hundred
thousand Protestants,--and the conviction that, in repressing a rebellion
which threatened the existence of the infant Commonwealth, the "iron
hand," though the least amiable, was the most merciful, and would save
the necessity of a wider though more prolonged vengeance. But our
business is with Owen, whom we find meanwhile employed within the
friendly walls of Dublin in preaching to "a numerous multitude of as
thirsting people after the gospel as ever he conversed with,"
investigating the condition of the university, and devising measures for
its extension and efficiency. His preaching was "not in vain," while his
representations to Parliament led to measures which raised the university
from its halfruinous condition, and obtained for it some of its most
valuable immunities. In the course of nine months, Cromwell, whose career
in Ireland had been that of the lightning followed by the shower,
terrific yet beneficent, returned to England to receive the thanks of the
Parliament and the people, and to be appointed General-in-chief of the
armies of the Commonwealth; and Owen, mourning over the fact "that there
was not one gospel preacher for every walled town in Ireland," was
restored to his rejoicing flock at Coggeshall.
  But the release which he was to enjoy was short. Cromwell had scarcely
returned from Ireland, when the state of Scotland demanded his presence.
That nation, which had begun the resistance to the tyranny of the
Stuarts, and to the worse tyranny of Rome, had almost unanimously
disapproved of the death of Charles, and now looked with jealousy and
hostility upon the government of the Commonwealth. They had actually
invited Charles from the midst of his debaucheries of Breda to become
their king; and, deceived by his signing of the Covenant, were now
meditating an attempt to restore him to his father's throne. In all this
Cromwell saw, on the part of the best of the Scottish people, an honest
and misguided zeal, which was aiming substantially at the same ends as
himself; but he saw in it not the less the most imminent danger to the
liberty, religion, and morality of England, and hastened to assert and
establish in Scotland the authority of the Commonwealth. Simultaneously
with this, an order passed the Commons requiring Joseph Carol and John
Owen to attend on the Commander-general as ministers; and Owen was thus a
second time torn away from his pastoral plans and studious toils to the
society of camps, and the din and carnage of sieges and battlefields.
Cromwell's motives for thus surrounding himself with the great preachers
of his age have been variously represented, according to the general
theory that has been formed of his character. Believing as we do in his
religious sincerity, we cannot doubt that he felt, like other religious
men, the powerful attraction of their intercourse. There was sound
policy, besides, in seeking by this means to convince an age remarkable
for its religious earnestness that he enjoyed the confidence and
friendship of the chiefs of the religious world; and hence we find him at
a later period securing the presence of John Howe at Whitehall, and
aiming by repeated efforts to subdue the jealous penetration of Baxter.
This latter motive, we cannot doubt, had its own influence in inducing
him to take Carol and Owen with him to Scotland; and it is very probable,
moreover, that, with all his passion for theological polemics, he foresaw
that, in his anticipated discussions with the Scottish clergy, he would
be all the better of these Puritan chiefs to help him at times in untying
the Gordian knots which they were sure to present to him.
  We are able to trace but a few of the steps of Owen in Scotland. He
appears to have joined Cromwell at Berwick, where he preached from the
text, Isa. 56:7, "For mine house shall be called an hour of prayer for
all people;" and, as we conclude from a letter of Cromwell's, assisted,
with "some other godly ministers," in drawing up a reply to the
Declaration of the General Assembly, which had already been sent to
Cromwell ere he could cross the borders. We next find him writing from
Musselburgh to Lisle, one of the commissioners of the Great Seal,
describing a skirmish between some of Cromwell's troops and those of
"cautious" Leslie. Next, the battle of Dunbar has been fought. Cromwell
is in possession of Edinburgh, but the castle still holds out against
him, and the ministers of the city have sought protection within its
walls. The pulpits of Edinburgh are consequently in the hands of
Cromwell's preachers. Owen preached repeatedly in old St. Giles', and is
listened to at first with wonder and jealousy, which gradually melt into
kindlier feelings, as the multitude trace in his words a sweet savour of
Christ. It is the opinion of many that Owen's hand is visible in the
letters which passed between Cromwell and the governor of Edinburgh
castle, on the offer of the Lord General to allow the ministers to come
out and occupy their pulpits on the Sabbathday; when, on their somewhat
suspicious and sulky refusal, Cromwell addressed them in that celebrated
letter of which Carlyle sage, that the Scotch clergy never got such a
reprimand since they first took ordination." Undoubtedly there are
striking resemblances to Owen's turn of thoughts especially in the paper
of "Queries," which abounds in "lumbering sentences with noble meanings"
We next follow him with Cromwell to Glasgow, where Zachary Boyd thunders
against the Lord-General in the old cathedral, and Cromwell listens with
calm forbearance, and where a discussion takes place between Owen and the
Scottish ministers, of which the following anecdote is told:--A young
Scottish minister, named Hugh Binning, not yet twenty-six years of age,
so managed the dispute as to confound Owen and the other English divines.
Oliver, surprised and half-pleased, inquired, after the meeting was over,
who this bold young man was; and being told that his name was Binning,--
"He has bound, well indeed," said he; "but,"laying his hand on his sword,
"this will loose all again." The discussion, with Binning's victory, is
not improbable; but the bad pun and the braggart threat are not like
Oliver, and may safely be consigned to those other "anecdotes of Cromwell
at Glasgow," of which Carlyle says, that "they are not to be repeated
anywhere except in the nursery."
  But long ere Cromwell's campaign in Scotland was over, and that last
battle, in which he gained "Worcester's laureate wreath," had been
fought, which drove Charles back to Breda, and reduced Scotland under the
generous sway of the commonwealth, Owen had been permitted to return to
his books and to his quiet pastorals in Essex. It was only a short
breathing-time, however, before his connection with Coggeshall was loosed
for ever. One morning he read, to his surprise, in the newspapers of the
day, the following order:--"On the 18th March l651, the House, taking
into consideration the worth and usefulness of John Owen, M.A., of
Queen's College, ordered that he be settled in the deanery of Christ
Church, in room of Dr Reynolds." A letter soon after followed this from
the principal students of Christ Church, expressing their great
satisfaction at the appointment. Cromwell before this had been chosen
Chancellor of Oxford. And on the 9th of September of the following year,
letters from Cromwell nominated Owen vice-chancellor of the university,
and thus placed him at the head of that great and ancient seat of
learning from which we have seen him, tell years before, walk forth an
exile for conscience' sake.

3 His Vice-Chancellorship

  The office of dean of Christ Church involved in it the duty of
presiding at all the meetings of the college, and delivering lectures in
divinity; while that of vice-chancellor virtually committed to the hands
of Owen the general government of the university. A charge of
inconsistency has sometimes been brought against him, as an Independent,
for accepting such offices, especially that of dean; and even some
sentences of Milton have been adduced to give sanction to the complaint.
But the whole charge proceeds on a mistake. It should be remembered that
the University of Oxford during the Commonwealth shared in those changes
which befell so many other institutions, and had ceased to be a mere
appendage and buttress of Episcopacy, and that the office as held by Owen
was separated from its ecclesiastical functions, and retained nothing, in
fact, of Episcopacy except the name. It is quite true that the emoluments
of the beanery were still drawn from the same sources as at an earlier
period; but Owen, in common with many of the Independents and all the
Presbyterians of his times, was not in principle opposed to the support
of the teachers of religion by national funds.
  His scruples in accepting office in Oxford, and especially in
consenting to be raised to the high position of vice-chancellor, arose
from other causes; and it needed all the authority of Cromwell, and all
the influence of the senate, completely to overcome them. It required him
to do violence to some of his best affections and strongest predilections
to tear himself away from the studious days and the happy pastorate of
Coggeshall; and perhaps it demanded a higher pitch of resolution still to
undertake the government of a university which had been brought to the
very brink of ruin by the civil wars, and from which, during the
intervening years, it had very partially recovered. During those years of
commotion, learning had almost been forgotten for arms; and Oxford,
throwing itself with a more than chivalrous loyalty into the cause of
Charles, had drained its treasury, and even melted its plate, in order to
retrieve his waning fortunes. The consequence had been, that at the end
of the civil war, when the cause of the Parliament triumphed, many of its
halls and colleges were closed; others of them had been converted into
magazines for stores and barracks for soldiers; the studious habits of
its youth had been completely disturbed, and the university burdened with
a debt of almost hopeless magnitude. Some of the worst of these evils
still remained,--others of them were only partially diminished; and when
we add to this the spirit of destructive Vandalism with which a noisy
party began to regard those ancient seats of learning, the licentiousness
and insubordination which the students had borrowed from the armies of
the Royalists, as well as the jealousy with which Owen was regarded by
the secret friends of Episcopacy, and by Presbyterians who had been
displaced by Cromwell from high positions in order to give place to
Independents, it is easy to see that it required no common courage to
seize the helm at such a moment, to grapple with such varied and
formidable difficulties, and to reduce such discordant elements to peace.
Such was the work to which Owen now betook himself.
  It is only too evident that even at the present day it requires, in the
case of many, something like a mental effort against early prejudice, to
conceive of this Puritan pastor occupying the lofty eminence to which he
was now raised with a suitable amount of dignity and grace. Not only the
author of "Hudibras," but even Clarendon and Hume, have written of the
Puritans in the style of caricature, and cleverly confounding them under
a common name with ignorant anal extravagant sectaries whom the Puritans
all along condemned and disowned, have too long succeeded in representing
the popular type of the Puritans as that of men of affected sanctity,
pedantic and piebald dialect, sour temper, and unpolished manner. Those
who indulge these ignorant mistake forget that if the Puritan preachers
were thus utterly deficient in matters of taste and refinement, they had
received their training at Oxford and Cambridge, and that the reflection
must, therefore, in all fairness, be extended to those seminaries. They
forget, moreover, as has been well remarked, that "it is more reasonable,
and certainly much more generous, to form our judgment with regard to
religious parties from the men among them who make their bequests to
posterity, than from such as constitute the weakness of a body rather
than its strength, and who die, as a matter of course, in the obscurity
in which they have lived."
  But it is remarkable, that all the leading men among the Puritan clergy
were such as, even in the matter of external grace and polish, might have
stood before kings. The native majesty of John Howe, refined by
intercourse with families of noble birth, and his radiant countenance, as
if formed "meliore luto", linger even in his portraits Philip Henry, the
playmate of pincer, bore with him into his country parish that "unbought
grace of life," which, in spite of his sterner qualities, attracted
towards him the most polished families of his neighbourhood. Richard
Baxter was the chosen associate of Sir Matthew Hale; and, contrary even
to the popular notions of those whose sympathies are all on the side of
Puritanism, Owen bore with him into public life none of the uncouth and
lumbering pedantry of the recluse, but associated with his more solid
qualities all the lighter graces of courtesy and taste. He is described
by one contemporary as "of universal affability, ready presence and
discourse, liberal, graceful, and courteous demeanour, that speak him
certainly (whatsoever he be else) one that was more a gentleman than most
of the Clergy." And Dodwell says, "His personage was proper and comely,
and he had a very graceful behaviour in the pulpit, an eloquent
elocution, a winning and insinuating deportment, and could, by the
persuasion of his oratory, in conjunction with some other outward
advantages, move and wind the affections of his auditory almost as he
pleased. It is with such a manner that we can conceive him to have
addressed the assembled heads of colleges, when he assumed the helm at
Oxford with tremulous hand, yet with firm determination to do his utmost
to discharge his high stewardship. 
  "I am well aware," said he, "gentlemen of the university, of the grief
you must feel that, after so many venerable names, reverend persons,
depositaries and preceptors of the arts and sciences, the fates of the
university should have at last placed him as leader of the company who
almost closes the rear. Neither, indeed, is this state of our affairs, of
whatever kind it be, very agreeable to myself, since I am compelled to
regard my return, after a long absence, to my beloved mother as a prelude
to the duties of a labourious and difficult situation. But complaints are
not remedies of any misfortune. Whatever their misfortune, groans become
not grave and honorable men. It is the part of an undaunted mind boldly
to bear up under a heavy burden. For, as the comic poet says,--
      The life of man
      is like a game at tables. If the cast
      Which is most necessary be not thrown,
      That which chance sends, you must correct by art."

  "The academic vessel, too long, alas! tossed by storms, being almost
entirely abandoned by all whose more advanced age, longer experience, and
well-earned literary titles, excited great and just expectations, I have
been called upon, by the partiality and too good opinion of him whose
commands we must not gainsay, and with whom the most earnest entreaties
to be excused were urged in vain, and also by the consenting suffrage of
this senate; and, therefore although there is perhaps no one more unfit,
I approach the helm. In what times, what manners, what diversities of
opinion (dissensions and calumnies everywhere raging in consequence of
party spirit), what bitter passions and provocations, what pride and
malice, our academical authority has occurred, I both know and lament.
Nor is it only the character of the age that distracts us, but another
calamity to our literary establishment, which is daily becoming more
conspicuous, the contempt, namely, of the sacred authority of law, and of
the reverence due to our ancestors; the watchful envy of Malignants; the
despised tears and sobs of our almost dying mother, the university (with
the eternal loss of the class of townsmen, and the no small hazard of the
whole institution); and the detestable audacity and licentiousness,
manifestly Epicurean beyond all the bounds of modesty and piety, in
which, alas! too many of the students indulge. Am I, then, able, in this
tottering state of all things, to apply a remedy to this complication of
difficulties, in which so many and so great heroes have, in the most
favourable times, laboured in vain? I am not, gentlemen, so
self-sufficient. Were I to act the part of one so impertinently disposed
to flatter himself, nay, were the slightest thought of such a nature to
enter my mind, I should be quite displeased with myself. I live not so
far from home, nor am such a stranger to myself, I use not my eyes so
much in the manner of witches, as not to know well how scantily I am
furnished with learning, prudence, authority, and wisdom. Antiquity has
celebrated Lucullus as a prodigy in nature, who, though unacquainted with
even the duty of a common soldier, became without any difficulty an
expert general; so that the man whom the city sent out inexperienced in
fighting, him the army received a complete master of the art of war. Be
of good courage, gentlemen. I bring no prodigies; from the obscurity of a
rural situation, from the din of arms, from journeys for the sake of the
gospel into the most distant parts of the island, and also beyond sea,
from the bustle of the court, I have retreated unskilful in the
government of the university; unskilful, also, I am come hither."
  "'What madness is this, then?' you will say. 'Why have you undertaken
that which you are unable to execute, far less to adorn? You have judged
very ill for yourself, for the university, and for this venerable
senate.' Softly, my hearers; neither hope nor courage wholly fails one
who is swayed by the judgment, the wishes, the commands, the entreaties
of the highest characters. We are not ourselves the sources of worthy
deeds of any kind. 'He who ministereth seed to the sower,' and who from
the mouths of infants has ordained strength, is able graciously to supply
all defects, whether caused from without or felt within. Destitute,
therefore, of any strength and boldness of my own, and of any
adventitious aid through influence with the university, so far as I know
or have deserved, it nevertheless remains to me to commit myself wholly
to Him 'who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.' He has
appointed an eternal fountain of supply in Christ, who furnisheth
seasonable help to every pious endeavour, unless our littleness of faith
stand in the way; thence must I wait and pray for light, for strength,
and for courage. Trusting, therefore, in his graciously promised
presence, according to the state of the times, and the opportunity which,
through divine Providence we have obtained,--conscious integrity alone
supplying the place of arts and of all embellishments,--without either a
depressed or servile spirit, I address myself to this undertaking."
  The facts that have been preserved by Owen's biographers sufficiently
prove that this inaugural address was no mere language of dignified
ceremony. By infusing that tolerant spirit into his administration which
he had often commended in his days of suffering, but which so many in
those times forgot when they rose to power,--by a generous impartiality
in the bestowal of patronage,--by an eagerness to detect modest merit,
and to help struggling poverty,--by a firm repression of disorder and
licentiousness, and a steadfast encouragement of studious habits and good
conduct,--he succeeded, during the few years of his vice-chancellorship,
in curing the worst evils of the university, and restoring it to such a
condition of prosperity as to command at length even the reluctant praise
of Clarendon.
  Among other honorable facts, it is recorded that he allowed a society
of Episcopalians to meet every Lord's day over against his own door, and
to celebrate public worship according to the forms of the liturgy, though
the laws at that period put it in Owen's power to disperse the assembly;
and there were not wanting those of a less enlarged and unsectarian
spirit to urge him to such a course. In the same wise and conciliatory
spirit he won the confidence of the Presbyterians, by bestowing upon
their ablest men some of the vacant livings that were at his disposal,
and taking counsel of them in all difficulties and emergencies. Many a
poor and promising student was aided by him with sums of money, and with
that well-timed encouragement which is more gratifying than silver and
gold, and which, in more than one instance, was found to have given the
first impulse on the road to fame. Foreign students of hopeful ability
were admitted through his influence to the use of the libraries and to
free commons; and one poor youth, in whose Latin epistle, informing Owen
of his necessities, he had discovered an unusual "sharpness of wit," was
at once received by him as tutor into his own family.
  But, amid these generous and conciliatory measures, Owen knew how, by
acts of wholesome severity, to put a curb upon licentiousness, and to
invigorate the whole discipline of the university. At a public Act, when
one of the students of Trinity College was "Terrae filius", he stood up
before the student began, and told him in Latin that he was at liberty to
say what he pleased, on condition that he abstained from all profane and
obscene expressions and personal reflections. The student began, but soon
violated all the conditions that had been laid down to him. Owen
repeatedly warned him to desist from a course so dishonouring to the
university; but the youth obstinately persisting in the same strain, he
at length commanded the beetles to pull him down. This was a signal for
the students to interpose; on which Owen, determined that the authority
of the university should not be insolently trampled on, rose from his
seat, in the face of the remonstrances of his friends, who were concerned
for his personal safety, drew the offender from his place with his own
hand, and committed him to Bocardo, the prison of the university,--the
students meanwhile standing aloof with amazement and fear at his
resolution. Was there not something, in this scene, of that robust
physical energy which had distinguished Owen at Oxford in earlier days in
bell-ringing and the leaping of bars?
  But the aims of the vice-chancellor rose far above the mere attempt to
restrain licentiousness within moderate bounds;--his whole arrangements
were made with the anxious desire of awakening and fostering among the
students the power of a living piety. His own example, as well as the
pervading spirit of his administration, would contribute much to this;
and there are not granting individual facts to show with what earnestness
he watched and laboured for the religious well-being of the university.
It had been customary for the Fellows to preach by turn on the afternoon
of the Lord's day in St. Mary's Church; but, on its being found that the
highest ends of preaching were often more injured than advanced by this
means, he determined to undertake this service alternately with Dr
Goodwin, the head of Magdalene College, and in this way to secure to the
youth of Oxford the advantage of a sound and serious ministry. It is
interesting to open, nearly two hundred years afterwards, the
reminiscences of one of the students, and to read his strong and grateful
testimony to the benefits he had derived from these arrangements of the
Puritan vice-chancellor. We have this privilege in the "Memoir of Philip
Henry, by his son." "He would often mention, with thankfulness to God,"
says the quaint and pious biographer, "what great helps and advantages he
had then in the university,--not only for learning, but for religion and
piety. Serious godliness was in reputation; and, besides the public
opportunities they had, many of the scholars used to meet together for
prayer and Christian conference, to the great confirming of one another's
hearts in the fear and love of God, and the preparing of them for the
service of the church in their generation. I have heard him speak of the
prudent method they took then about the university sermons on the Lord's
day, in the afternoon, which used to be preached by the fellows of
colleges in their course; but that being found not so much for
edification, Dr Owen and Dr Goodwin performed that service alternately,
and the young masters that were wont to preach it had a lecture on
Tuesday appointed them."
  But the combined duties of his two onerous offices at Oxford did not
absorb all the energies of Owen. His mind appears to have expanded with
his position, and to have shown resources that were literally
inexhaustible. The few years which saw him the chief agent in raising the
university from the brink of ruin, were those in which he was most
frequently summoned by Cromwell to his councils, and in which he gave to
the world theological works which would have been sufficient of
themselves in the case of most men, to occupy and to recompense the
energies of a lifetime. We now turn with him, then, for a little to the
platform of public life, and to the toils of authorship.
  On the 25th of August 1563 we again find him preaching, by command,
before Parliament, on occasion of that celebrated victory over the Dutch
fleet which established the reputation of the arms of the Commonwealth by
sea, and paved the way for an honorable and advantageous peace with
Holland. In October of the same year he was invited by Cromwell to
London, to take part, along with some other ministers, in a conference on
Christian union. The matter is stated in such interesting terms in one of
the newspapers of the day, and, besides, affords such a valuable
incidental glimpse of Cromwell's administration, that we prefer giving it
in the words of that document:--"Several ministers were treated with by
his Excellency the Lord-General Cromwell, to persuade them that hold
Christ, the head, and so are the same fundamentals, to agree in love,--
that there be no such divisions among people professing godliness as has
been, nor railing or reviling each other for difference only in forms.
There were Mr Owen, Mr Marshall (Presbyterian), Mr Nye (Independent), Mr
Jersey (Baptist), Mr Harrison, and others; to whom the advice and counsel
of his Excellency were so sweet and precious, and managed with each
judgment and graciousness, that it is hoped it will much tend to persuade
those that fear the Lord in spirit and truth to labour for the union of
all God's people."
  It does not appear that any immediate practical measures resulted from
this conference. The mistake, by which many such laudable attempts were
defeated, was that of attempting too much incorporation was sought, when
they should have been satisfied with mutual Christian recognition and
cooperation up to the point of agreement; and sometimes a constrained
silence on matters of difference, where there should rather have been a
generous forbearance. But it is wrong to speak of such conferences and
communing, when they failed of their immediate object, as either useless
or fruitless. To the good men who mingled in them, it must have deepened
the feeling of unity even where it did not increase its manifestation,
and even unconsciously to themselves must have lowered the walls of
division. Nor is it without interest and instruction to remark, that the
best men of that age and of the next were ever the readiest to give
themselves to movements that had this aim. Owen, by the reproaches which
he brought upon himself on this account from weaker brethren, showed
himself to be before his age. The pure spirit of Howe, which dwelt in a
region so far above the petty passions of earth, has expressed its
longings to see the church made "more awful and more amiable" by union,
in his essay "On Union among Protestants," and "On the Carnality of
Religious contentions." Baxter, with all his passion for dialectics, felt
and owned the power of these holy attractions and longed the more for the
everlasting rest, that he would there at length see the perfect
realization of union. And the saintly Usher, prompted in part by the
sublime seasonings of Howe, actually proposed a scheme of comprehension,
of which, though defective in some of its provisions, and not permitted
to be realized, God doubtless said, "It was good that it was in thine
heart to do it." The Puritans did more than make unsuccessful experiments
of union: they expounded in their writings many of the principles on
which alone it can be accomplished; and it seems now only to need a
revival of religion from on high in order to accomplish what they so
eagerly desired. They were the Davids who prepared the materials of the
temple,--shall the Christian of this age be the sons of peace who shall
be honoured to build?
  It was in all likelihood while Owen was attending in London on the
meetings of this conference, that the senate embraced the opportunity of
diplomating him Doctor of Divinity. For we find it recorded by Wood in
his "Fasti Oxoniensis," that, "On Dec 23, John Owen, M.A., dean of Ch.
Ch., and vice-chancellor of the university, was then (he being at Lond.)
diplomated doct. of div." He is said in his diploma to be "in palaestra
theologia exercitatissimus, in concionando assiduus et potent, in
disputando strenuus et acutus". Owen's fiend, Thomas Goodwin, president
of Magdalene College, was diplomated on the same occasion; and the
honoured associates are sneeringly described by Wood, after his manner,
as "the two Atlases and Patriarchs of Independency."
  In the midst of these engagements, Dr Owen produced and published, in
Latin, one of his most abstruse dissertations,--"Diatriba de Divina
Justitia, etc.; or, the claims of Vindicatory Justice Asserted." The
principle which it is the design of this treatise to explain and
establish is, that God, considered as a moral governor, could not forgive
sin without an atonement, or such provision for his justice as that which
is made by the sacrifice of Christ. It had fallen to his lot some months
before, in certain theological discussions to which he was called by his
office, "to discourse and dispute on the vindicatory justice of God, and
the necessity of its exercise on the supposition of the existence of
sin;" and his hurried treatment of the subject, in the brief hour which
was allowed him, had the rare success of bringing many over to his views.
Owen was convinced that his principle "struck its roots deep through
almost the whole of theology." He saw plainly that its effect, if
established, was to raze the very foundations of Socinian error;--yet he
was grieved to find that many excellent divines, who held views in common
with him on all the great truths of the evangelical system, wavered on
this, and that some honoured names had lately given a new sanction to the
opposite opinion; among whom were Dr Twisse of Newbury, prolocutor of the
Westminster Assembly, in his "Vindicice Gratiae, Potestatis, ac
Providentiae divinae," and the venerable Samuel Rutherford of St Andrew,
in his "Disputation Scholastics de divina Providentia" This made him the
more readily accede to the wishes of those who had received benefit and
confirmation from his verbal exposition of the subject, that he would
enter on its more orderly and deliberate investigation. We do not wonder
that the future expositor of the Epistle to the Hebrews should have been
strongly prompted to contend for this principle, since it seems wrought
up with more than one part of that colossal argument of inspired
  In pursuing his argument, he evidently felt himself dazzled at times by
the lustre of those interior truths to which his thoughts were turned.
"Those points," he remarks, "which dwell in more intimate recesses, and
approach nearer its immense fountain, the Father of light, darting
brighter rays by their excess of light, present a confounding darkness to
the minds of the greatest men, and are as darkness to the eyes breaking
forth amidst so great light. For what we call darkness in divine subjects
is nothing else than their celestial glory and splendour striking on the
weak ball of our eyes, the rays of which we are not able in this life,
which is but a vapour and shineth but a little, to bear."
  In other places we can trace indications, that when he was rising to
the height of his great argument, his fertile mind was revolving new
treatises, which he afterwards gave to the world, and longing for the
hour when he would descend from his present altitudes to those truths
which bear more directly and powerfully on the spiritual life: "There
are, no doubt, many other portions and subjects of our religion, of that
blessed trust committed to us for our instructions on which we might
dwell with greater pleasure and satisfaction of mind. Such, I mean, as
afford a more free and wider scope of ranging through the most pleasant
meads of the holy Scripture, and contemplating in these the transparent
fountains of life and rivers of consolation;--subjects which,
unencumbered by the thickets of scholastic terms and distinctions,
unembarrassed by the impediments and eophisms of an enslaving philosophy
or false knowledge, sweetly and pleasantly lead into a pure, unmixed, and
delightful fellowship with the Father and with his Son, shedding abroad
in the heart the inmost loves of our Beloved, with the odour of his sweet
ointment poured forth."
  The usual number of replies followed the appearance of this treatise,
in which Baxter once more stood forth equipped in his ready armour.
  In the following year Dr Owen gave to the world another work, of much
greater magnitude, extending over nearly five hundred folio pages. He has
himself supplied its best description and analysis in its ample
title-page,--"The Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance Explained and
Confirmed; or, the certain permanency of their acceptation with God and
sanctification from God manifested and proved, from the eternal
principles, the effectual causes, and the external means thereof; in the
immutability of the nature, decrees, covenant, and promises of God; the
oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ; the promises, exhortations,
and threats of the Gospel: improved in its genuine tendency to obedience
and consolation." The work was immediately called forth by the
"Redemption Redeemed" of John Goodwin, an Arminian writer, to whom Owen
allows nearly all the most brilliant qualities of a controversialist,
except a good cause. He describes him as not only clothing every
conception of his mind with language of a full and choice significance,
but also trimming and adorning it with all manner of signal improvements
that may render it keen or pleasant, according to his intendment and
desire, and happily applies to him the words of the Roman poet:---
      Monte decurrens velut anmin, imbres
      Quem super notas aluere ripas,
      Fervet, immnsusque ruit profundo
                      Pindarus ore.

The treatise, however, would be almost as complete were every part of it
that refers to Goodwin expunged, and undeniably forms the most masterly
vindication of the perseverance of the saints in the English tongue. Even
Goodwin, with all his luxuriant eloquence, is sadly shattered when
grasped by the mailed hand of the great Puritan.
      Luxuriant artus, effusaque sanguine laxo
      Membra natant.

  The style of argument is much more popular than that of the former
treatise; partly because of the insinuating rhetoric of his adversary,
and also because Owen knew that Armenian sentiments had found their way
into many of the churches, and that if he was to convince the people, he
must write for the people. The following weighty sentence refers to his
avoidance of philosophical terms and scholastic forms of argument, and is
worthy of Owen's sanctified wisdom: "That which we account our wisdom and
learning may, if too rigorously attended, be our folly: when we think to
sharpen the reason of the Scripture, we may straiten the efficacy of the
spirit of it. It is oftentimes more effectual in its own liberty, than
when restrained to our methods of arguing; and the weapons of it keener
in their own soft breathing, than when sharpened in the forge of
  No part of this elaborate work is more characteristic of Dr Owen than
his preface to the reader, which extends over forty folio pages, until
you begin to fear that "the gate shall become wider than the city." It
contains an account of the treatment which the doctrine had receded from
the first Christian century to his own; and in its pages, which are
literally variegated with Greek and Latin citations, displays an immense
research. But what most surprises the reader, is to find the Doctor, when
about the middle of his way, deliberately turning aside to discuss with
Dr Hammond the genuineness of the Epistles of Ignatius, and to weigh the
evidence which they would afford, on the supposition of their
genuineness, for a primitive Episcopacy. One is tempted to trace a
resemblance between the theological writing of those times and their
modes of journeying. There was no moving in those days with all possible
directness and celerity to the goal. The traveller stopped when he
pleased, diverged where he pleased, and as often as he pleased, whenever
he wished to salute a friend or to settle a controversy.--The work is
dedicated to Cromwell. The strong language in which Owen speaks of his
religious sincerity is interesting, as showing the estimate which was
formed of the Protector's character by those who had the best
opportunities of judging regarding it.
  The mention of Cromwell's name naturally brings Us back to public
events, and to an occurrence which, more than almost any other in Owen's
life, laid him open to the reproaches of his enemies. Cromwell having
dissolved the Long Parliament in the end of 1653, had a few months after
issued writs for a new election. The university of Oxford was empowered
to return one member to this Parliament, and Dr Owen was elected. That he
did not evince any decided unwillingness to accept this new office may be
presumed for the fact that he at once took his seat in the House, and
continued to sit until the committee of privileges, on account of his
being a minister of religion, declared his election annulled. His
systematic detractors have fastened on this part of his conduct with all
the instinct of vultures, and even his friends have only ventured, for
the most part, on a timid and hesitating defense. Cawdrey and Anthony
Wood, not satisfied with commenting on the fact of his seeming eagerness
to grasp at civil power, accuse him, on the authority of public rumour,
of refusing to say whether he was a minister or not,--a charge which he
left at first to be answered by its own absurdity, but which, on finding
some actually crediting it, he repelled with a pardonable amount of
vehement indignation, declaring it to be "so remote from any thing to
give a pretence or colour to it, that I question whether Satan have
impudence enough to own himself its author."
  But there have been others, who, while disowning all sympathy with
these birds of evil omen that haunted the path of the noble Puritan, have
questioned the propriety and consistency of one in Owen's circumstances,
and with all his strongly-professed longings for the duties of a tranquil
pastorate, so readily "entangling himself with the affairs of this life;"
and this is certainly a more tenable ground of objection. And yet, to
judge Owen rightly, we must take into view all the special elements of
the case. All except those who see en ordination a mysterious and
indissoluble spell, and hold the Romish figment of "once a priest, always
a priest," will admit that emergencies may arise in a commonwealth when
even the Christian minister may, for the sake of accomplishing the
highest amount of good, place in abeyance the peculiar duties of his
office, and merge the pastor in the legislator. Persons had sat with this
conviction in the immediately previous Parliament; and in the last
century, Dr Witherspoon, one of the purest and most conscientious of
Scottish ecclesiastics, after emigrating to America, united the duties of
pastor and president of Jersey College with those of a member of
Congress, and was only second to Washington and Franklin in laying the
foundations of the infant republic. Dr Owen, in all likelihood, acted on
principles similar to those which swayed the Scottish divine; and when we
consider the avowed and fanatical animosity with which Oxford was
regarded by a turbulent party in the state, as well as the active
interest which Cromwell and his, Parliament took in the religious
condition of the nation, it is easy to conceive how Owen felt that he was
only placing himself in a better position for watching over the well-
being of the university, and for promoting the interests of religion and
of religious liberty, by being there to bear his part in the
deliberations regarding it. At the same time, with all these facts before
us to qualify our censure, we cannot help thinking that when Owen saw the
validity of his election so vehemently questioned, he would have
consulted his dignity more had he declined to sit. 
  In the "Instrument of Government" presented by Cromwell to this
Parliament, it was proposed that all who professed faith in God by Jesus
Christ should be protected in their religion. In the debates which took
place on this part of the instrument, its language was interpreted as
recommending toleration to those only who were agreed on the fundamentals
of Christian doctrine,--an interpretation which, there is reason to
think, injuriously restricted the Protector's meaning. But the question
immediately arose, what were fundamentals? and a committee of fourteen
was appointed to prepare a statement for the House on this subject; who,
in their turn, committed the work to fourteen divines of eminence. Owen
was on this committee; and, according to Baxter, had the principal share
in "wording the articles." He has been beamed for seeking to limit the
blessings of toleration, on the now generally-admitted principle, that a
man's religious belief ought not to be made the condition of his civil
privileges. But the censure is misplaced. Owen was responsible for the
correctness of his answers,--not for the use which the Parliament might
make of them; but the abrupt dissolution of the Parliament which,
disappointed Cromwell's expectations, prevented their being embodied in
any legislative measure.
  About the sane period Dr Owen was invited by the Protector and his
Council to form part of a committee, from whose labours the cause of
religion in England reaped great and permanent advantage. We refer to the
commission appointed to examine candidates for ordination; whose powers
soon after included the ejection of ministers and schoolmasters of
heretical doctrine and scandalous life. Cromwell has been condemned for
thus invading the proper functions of the church; and undoubtedly he did
in this measure boldly overstep the province of the legislator; at the
same time, he was right in thinking that the true greatness of his
kingdom, and the stability of his government, depended on the pervading
influence of religion among the people; and that it was better that the
church should in this irregular manner be purged of its hirelings and
moneychangers, than left to sink into inefficiency and corruption.
  About forty ministers, "the acknowledged flower of Puritanism," were
united with a few Puritan laymen, and appointed to this most delicate
office. Undoubtedly, the power committed to them was tremendous, and, in
the hands of unscrupulous men, might have been turned to purposes the
most inquisitorial and vile. But seldom has power been less abused, or
the rare and incidental mischief arising from its exercise, more
immeasurably outweighed by its substantial benefits. It afforded, indeed,
a tempting theme for the profane genius of Hudibras, to represent the
triers, in their inquiries regarding the spiritual life of candidates, as
      "To find, in lines of beard and face, 
      The physiognomy of grace; 
      And, by the sound of twang and nose, 
      If all be sound within disclose;"
and high Royalists and partisans like Bishop Kennel, who had probably
smarted under their investigations, in their eagerness to find matter of
accusation against them, might blunder out unconscious praise. But the
strong assertion of the historian of the Puritans has never been
disproved,--that not a single instance can be produced of any who were
rejected for insufficiency without being first convicted either of
immorality, of obnoxious sentiments in the Socinian or Pelagian
controversy, or of disaffection to the present government. Cromwell
could, before his second Parliament, refer to the labours of the
commissioners in such strong terms as these: "There has not been such a
service to England since the Christian religion was perfect in England! I
dare be bold to say it." And the well-balanced testimony of Baxter, given
with all his quaint felicity, may be held, when we consider that he had
looked on the appointment of the triers with no friendly eye, as
introducing all the shadings necessary to truth: "Because this assembly
of triers is most heavily accused and reproached by some men, I shall
speak the truth of them; and suppose my word will be taken, because most
of them took me for one of their boldest adversaries. The truth is,
though some few over-rigid and over-busy Independents among them were too
severe against all that were Arminians, and too particular in inquiring
after evidences of sanctification in those whom they examined, and
somewhat too lax in admitting of unlearned and erroneous men that
favoured Antinomianism or Anabaptism; yet, to give them their due, they
did abundance of good in the church They saved many a congregation from
ignorant, ungodly, drunken teachers,--that sort of men who intend no more
in the ministry then to read a sermon on Sunday, and all the rest of the
week go with the people to the alehouse and harden them in sin; and that
sort of ministers who either preached against a holy life, or preached as
men who were never acquainted with it. These they usually rejected, and
in their stead admitted of any that were able, serious preachers, and
lived a godly life, of what tolerable opinion soever they were; so that,
though many of them were a little partial for the Independents,
Separatists, Fifth-monarchy Men, and Anabaptists, and against the
Prelatists and Armenians, yet so great was the benefit above the hurt
which they brought to the church, that many thousands of souls blessed
God for the faithful ministers whom they let in, and grieved when the
Prelatists afterwards cast them out again."
  Every student of the Puritan history is familiar with the magnanimous
act of Howe, in recommending Fuller the historian for ordination, though
a Royalist, because he "made conscience of his thoughts;" and an equally
high-minded and generous act of impartiality is recorded of Owen. Dr
Pocock, professor of Arabic in Oxford, and one of the greatest scholars
in Europe, held a living in Berks, and was about to have hard measure
dealt to him by the commissioners for that county. No sooner did Owen
hear of this than he wrote to Thurloe, Cromwell's secretary, imploring
him to stay such rash and disgraceful procedure. Not satisfied with this,
he hastened into Berkshire in person, warmly remonstrated with the
commissioners on the course which they seemed bent on pursuing, and only
ceased when he had obtained the honorable discharge of the menaced
scholar from farther attendance.
  Owen's wisdom in council involved the natural penalty of frequent
consultation; and, accordingly, we find him in the following year again
invited to confer with Cromwell on a subject which, in addition to its
own intrinsic interest, acquires a new interest from recent agitation.
Manasseh Ben Israel, a learned Jew from Amsterdam, had asked of Cromwell
and his government permission for the Jews to settle and trade in
England, from which they had been excluded since the thirteenth century.
Cromwell, favourable to the proposal himself, submitted the question to a
conference of lawyers, merchants, and divines, whom he assembled, and
whom he wished to consider it in relation to the interests which they
might be held respectively to represent. The lawyers saw nothing in the
admission of the Jews contrary to the laws of England, some of the
merchants were friendly, and some opposed; and though a living historian
has described theologians as unanimous in their opposition, they were, in
fact, divided in their opinion too; some, like Mr Dury, being fierce in
their opposition, even to fanaticism; and others, of whom there is reason
to think Dr Owen was one, being prepared to admit them under certain
restrictions. Cromwell, however, was on this subject in advance of all
his counsellors, and indeed of his age, "from his shoulders and upward he
was higher than any of the people," and displayed a faith in the power of
truth, and an ingenuity in turning the timid objections of his advisers
arguments by which they might at once have been instructed and rebuked."
Since there is a promise in holy Scripture of the conversion of the
Jews," he said, "I do not know but the preaching of the gospel, as it is
now in England, without idolatry or superstition, may conduce to it." "I
never heard a man speak so well," was the future testimony of Sir Paul
Ricaut, who had pressed into the crowd. The good intentions of the
Protector were defeated; but, as an expression of his respect for the
rabbi he ordered 200 pound to be paid to him out of the public treasury.
  In the midst of these public events, Owen's pen had once more been
turned to authorship by the immediate command of the Council of State.
The catechisms of Biddle, the father of English Socinianism, had given
vogue to the errors of that school; and though various writers of
ability, such as Poole and Cheynel in England, and Cloppenburg, Arnold,
and Maretz on the continent, had already remarked on them, it was deemed
advisable that they should obtain a more complete and sifting exposure;
and Owen was selected, by the high authority we have named, to undertake
the task. His "Vindiciae Evangelicae," a work of seven hundred quarts
pages, embracing all the great points of controversy between the Socinian
and the Calvinist, was the fruit of this command; and was certainly a far
more suitable and efficient way of extinguishing the poor heresiarch,
than the repeated imprisonments to which he was subjected. Dr Owen,
however, does not confine himself to the writings of Biddle, but includes
in his review the Racovian catechism, which was the confession of the
foreign Socinians of that age; and the Annotations of Grotius,--which,
though nowhere directly teaching Socinian opinions, are justly charged by
him with explaining away those passages on which the peculiar doctrines
of the Gospel lean for their support, and thus, by extinguishing one
light after another, leaving you at length in midnight darkness. An
accomplished modern writer has pointed out a mortifying identity between
the dogmas of our modern Pantheists and those of the Buddhists of India.
It would be easy to show that the discoveries of our modern Neologists
and Rationalists are in truth the resurrection of the errors of Biddle,
Smalcius, and Moscorovius. Again and again, in those writings, which have
slumbered beneath the dust of two centuries, the student meets with the
same speculations, supported by the same reasonings and interpretations,
that have startled him in the modern German treatise, by their impious
  You pass into the body of this elaborate work through one of those
learned porticoes in which our author delights, and in which the history
of Socinianism is traced through its many forms and phases, from the days
of Simon Magus to his own. No part of this history in of more permanent
value than his remarks on the controversial tactics of Socinians; among
which he especially notices their objection to the use of terms not to be
found in Scripture; and to which he replies, that "though such terms may
not be of absolute necessity to express the things themselves to the
minds of believers, they may yet be necessary to defend the truth from
the opposition and craft of seducers;" their cavilling against
evangelical doctrines rather than stating any positive opinions of their
own, and, when finding it inconvenient to oppose, or impossible to refute
a doctrine, insisting on its not being fundamental. How much of the
secret of error in religion is detected in the following advice: "Take
heed of the snare of Satan in affecting eminency by singularity. It is
good to strive to excel, and to go before one another in knowledge and in
light, as in holiness and obedience. To do this in the road is difficult.
Many, finding it impossible to emerge into any consideration by walking
in the beaten path of truth, and yet not able to conquer the itch of
being accounted "tines megaloi", turn aside into byways, and turn the
eyes of men to them by scrambling over hedge and ditch, when the sober
traveller is not at all regarded." And the grand secret of continuing in
the faith grounded and settled, is expressed in the following wise
sentences: "That direction in this kind which with me is "instar omnium",
is for a diligent endeavour to have the power of the truths professed and
contended for abiding upon our hearts;--that we may not contend for
notions, but what we have a practical acquaintance with in our own souls.
When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the
mind embraceth,--when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in
us,--when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense
of the things abides in our hearts, when we have communion with God in
the doctrine we contend for,--then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of
God against all the assaults of men."
  This secret communion with God in the doctrines contended for was the
true key to Owen's own steadfastness amid all those winds of doctrine
which unsettled every thing but what was rooted in the soil. We have an
illustration of this in the next treatise, which he soon after gave to
the world, and in which he passes from the lists of controversy to the
practical exhibition of the Gospel as a life-power. It was entitled, "On
the mortification of Sin in Believers;" and contains the substance of
some sermons which he had preached on Rom.8:13. He informs us that his
chief motives for this publication were, a wish to escape from the region
of public debate, and to produce something of more general use, that
right seem a fruit "of choice, not of necessity;" and also, "to provide
an antidote for the dangerous mistakes of some that of late years had
taken upon them to give directions for the mortification of sin, who,
being unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel and the efficacy of the
death of Christ, have anew imposed the yoke of a self-wrought-out
mortification on the necks of their disciples, which neither they nor
their forefathers were ever able to bear." We have no means of knowing
what were the treatises to which Owen here refers; but it is well known
that Baxter mind at an early period received an injurious legal bias from
a work of this kind; nor is even Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living" free from
the fault of minute prescription of external rules and "bodily exercise,
which profiteth little," instead of bringing the mind into immediate
contact with those great truths which inspire and transform whatever they
touch. Nor have there been wanting teachers, in any age of the church,
      "-- do but skin and film the ulcerous place,
      While rank corruption, mining all within,
      Infects unseen."

  Owen's work is a noble illustration of the Gospel method of
sanctification, as we believe it to be a living reflection of his own
experience. In his polemical works he was like the lecturer on the
materia medica; but here he is the skilful physician, applying the
medicine to the cure of soul-sickness. And it is interesting to find the
ample evidence which this work affords, that, amid the din of theological
controversy, the engrossing and perplexing activities of a high public
station, and the chilling damps of a university, he was yet living near
God, and, like Jacob amid the stones of the wilderness, maintaining
secret intercourse with the eternal and invisible.
  To the affairs of Oxford we must now return for a little. In the midst
of his multifarious public engagements, and the toils of a most ponderous
authorship, Owen's thoughts had never been turned from the university,
and his efforts for its improvement, encouraged by the Protector and his
council, as well as by the cooperation of the heads of colleges, had been
rewarded by a surprising prosperity. Few things, indeed, are more
interesting than to look into the records of Oxford at this period, as
they have been preserved by Anthony Wood and others, and to mark the
constellation of great names among its fellows and students; some of whom
were already in the height of their renown, and others, with a strangely
varied destiny awaiting them, were brightening into a fame which was to
shed its lustre on the coming age. The presiding mind at this period was
Owen himself, who, from the combined influence of station and character,
obtained from all around him willing deference; while associated with him
in close friendship, in frequent conference, and learned research, which
was gradually embodied in many folios, was Thomas Goodwin, the president
of Magdalene College. Stephen Charnock had already carried many honours,
and given token of that Saxon vigour of intellect and ripe devotion which
were afterwards to take shape in his noble treatise on the "Divine
Attributes." Dr Pocock sat in the chair of Arabic, unrivalled as an
Orientalist; and Dr Seth Ward taught mathematics, already noted as an
astronomer, and hereafter to be less honorably noted as so supple a
timeserver, that, "amid all the changes of the times he never broke his
bones." Robert Boyle had fled hither, seeking in its tranquil shades
opportunity for undisturbed philosophic studies, and finding in all
nature food for prayer; and one more tall and stately than the rest might
be seen now amid the shady walks of Magdalene College, musing on the
"Blessedness of the Righteous," and now in the recesses of its libraries,
"ensphering the spirit of Plato," and amassing that learning and
excogitating that divine philosophy which were soon to be transfigured
and immortalized in his "Living Temple." Daniel Whitby, the acute
annotator on the New Testament, and the ablest champion of Arminisnism,
now adored the roll of Oxford,--Christopher Wren, whose architectural
genius has reared its own monument in the greatest of England's
cathedrals,--William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, and the father of
the gentlest and most benignant of all our Christian sects,--John Locke,
the founder of the greatest school of English metaphysics, to whom was to
belong the high honour of basing toleration on the principles of
philosophy,--William South, the pulpit satirist, whom we alternately
admire for his brawny intellect and matchless style, and despise for
their prostration to the lowest purposes of party,--Thomas Ken, the
future bishop of Bath and Wells, whose holiness drew forth the willing
homage of the Puritans, and whose conscientiousness as a nonjuror was
long after to be proved by his sufferings in the Tower,--Philip Henry,
now passing to the little conference of praying students, and now
receiving from Dr Owen praises which only make him humbler, already
delighting in those happy alliterations and fine conceits which were to
be gathered from his lips by his admiring son, and embalmed in the
transparent amber of that son's immortal Commentary,--and Joseph Alleine,
who, in his "Alarm to the Unconverted," was to produce a work which the
church of God will not willingly let die, and was to display the spirit
of a martyr amid the approaching cruelties of the Restoration, and the
deserted hearths and silent churches of St. Bartholomew's Day.
  But events were beginning to transpire in the political world which
were to bring 0wen's tenure of the vice-chancellorship to a speedy close.
He had hitherto befriended Cromwell in all his great measures, with the
strong conviction that the liberties and general interests of the nation
were bound up with his supremacy. He had even, on occasion of the risings
of the Royalists under colonel Penruddock in the west, busied himself in
securing the attachment of the university, and in raising a troop of
horse for the defense of the county, until one of his Royalist revilers,
enraged at his infectious zeal, described him as "riding up and down like
a spiritual Abaddon, with white powder in his hair and black in his
pocket." But when a majority of the Parliament proposed to bestow upon
Cromwell the crown and title of king, and when the Protector was
evidently not averse to the entreaties of his Parliament, Owen began to
suspect the workings of an ambition which, if not checked, would
introduce a new tyranny, and place in jeopardy those liberties which so
much had been done and suffered to secure. He therefore joined with
Colonel Desborough, Fleetwood, and the majority of the army, in opposing
these movements, and even drew up the petition which is known to have
defeated the measure, and constrained Cromwell to decline the perilous
  Many circumstances soon made it evident, that by this bold step Dr Owen
had so far estranged from himself the affection of Cromwell. Up to this
time he had continued to be, of all the ministers of his times, the most
frequently invited to preach on those great occasions of public state
which it was usual in those days to grace with a religious service. But
when, soon after this occurrence, Cromwell was inaugurated into his
office as Protector, at Westminster Hall, with all the pomp and splendour
of a coronation, those who were accustomed to watch how the winds of
political favour blew, observed that Lockyer and Dr Manton were the
divines who officiated at the august ceremonial; and that Owen was not
even there as an invited guest. This was significant, and the decisive
step soon followed. On the 3rd of July Cromwell resigned the office of
chancellor of the university; on the 18th day of the same month, his son
Richard was appointed his successor; and six weeks afterwards Dr Owen was
displaced from the vice-chancellorship, and Dr Conant, a Presbyterian,
and rector of Exeter College, nominated in his stead.
  Few things in Owen's public life more became him than the manner in
which he resigned the presidency of Oxford, and yielded up the academic
fasces into the hands of another. He "knew both how to abound, and how to
be abased." There is no undignified insinuation of ungracious usage; no
loud assertion of indifference, to cover the bitterness of chagrin; no
mock humility; but a manly reference to the service which he was
conscious of having rendered to the university, with a generous
appreciation of the excellencies of the friend to whom the government was
now to be transferred. In his parting address to the university, after
stating the number of persons that had been matriculated and graduated
during his administration, he continues: "Professors' salaries, lost for
many years, have been recovered and paid; some offices of respectability
have been maintained; the rights and privileges of the university have
been defended against all the efforts of its enemies; the treasury is
tenfold increased; many of every rank in the university have been
promoted to various honours and benefices; new exercises have been
introduced and established; old ones have been duly performed;
reformation of manners has been diligently studied, in spite of the
grumbling of certain profligate brawlers; labours have been numberless;
besides submitting to the most enormous expense, often when brought to
the brink of death on your account, I have hated these limbs, and this
feeble body, which was ready to desert my mind; the reproaches of the
vulgar have been disregarded, the envy of others has been overcome: in
these circumstances I wish you all prosperity, and bid you farewell. I
congratulate myself on a successor who can relieve me of this burden; and
you on one who is able completely to repair any injury which your affairs
may have suffered through our inattention..... But as I know not whither
the thread of my discourse might lead me, I here cut it short. I seek
again my old labours, my usual watchings, my interrupted studies. As for
you, gentlemen of the university, may you be happy, and fare you well."

4 His Retirement and Last Days

  A wish has sometimes been expressed, that men who, like Owen, have
contributed so largely to the enriching of our theological literature,
could have been spared the endless avocations of public life, and allowed
to devote themselves almost entirely to authorship. But the wisdom of
this sentiment is very questionable. Experience seems to testify that a
certain amount of contact with the business of practical life is
necessary to the highest style of thought and authorship; and that minds,
when left to undisturbed literary leisure, are apt to degenerate into
habits of diseased speculation and sickly fastidiousness. Most certainly
the works that have come from men of monastic habits have done little for
the world, compared with the writings of those who leave ever been ready
to obey the voice which summoned them away from tranquil studies to
breast the storms and guide the movements of great social conflicts. The
men who have lived the most earnestly for their own age, have also lived
the most usefully for posterity. Owen's retirement from the
vice-chancellorship may indeed be regarded as a most seasonable relief
from the excess of public engagement; but it may be confidently
questioned whether he would have written so much or so well, had his
intellect and heart been, in any great degree, cut off from the stimulus
which the struggles and stern realities of life gave to them. This is,
accordingly, the course through which we are now rapidly to follow him,--
to the end of his days continuing to display an almost miraculous
fertility of authorship, that is only equalled by that of his illustrious
compeer, Richard Baxter; and, at the same time, taking no second part in
the great ecclesiastical movements of that most eventful age.
  The next great public transaction in which we find Dr Owen engaged, was
the celebrated meeting of ministers and delegates from the Independent
Churches, for the purpose of preparing a confession of their faith and
order, commonly known by the name of the Savoy Assembly or Synod. The
Independents had greatly flourished during the Protectorate; and many
circumstances rendered such a meeting desirable. The Presbyterian members
of the Westminster Assembly had often pressed on them the importance of
such a public and formal exposition of their sentiments. Their
Independent brethren in New England had set them the example ten years
before; and the frequent misrepresentations to which they were exposed,
especially through their being confounded with extravagant sectaries who
sheltered themselves beneath the common name of Independents, as well as
the religious benefits that were likely to accrue from mutual conference
and comparison of views, appeared strongly to recommend such a measure.
"We confess," say they, "that from the very first, all, or at least the
generality of our churches, have been in a manner like so many ships,
though holding forth the same general colours, launched singly, and
sailing apart and alone on the vast ocean of these tumultuous times, and
exposed to every wind of doctrine, under no other conduct than that of
the Word and Spirit, and their particular elders and principal brethren,
without association among themselves, or so much as holding out common
lights to others, whereby to know where they were."
  It was with considerable reluctance, however, that Cromwell yielded his
sanction to the calling of such a meeting. He remembered the anxious
jealousy with which the proceedings of the Westminster Assembly had been
watched, and probably had his own fears that what now began in
theological discussion might end in the perilous canvassing of public
measures. But his scruples were at length overcome,--circulars were
issued, inviting the churches to send up their pastors and delegates, and
more than two hundred brethren appeared in answer to the summons. They
met in a building in the Strand, which was now commonly devoted to the
accommodation of the officers of Cromwell's court, but which had formerly
been a convent and a hospital, and originally the palace of the Duke of
Savoy, from whom it took its name. A committee, in which Owen and Goodwin
evidently bore the burden of the duties, prepared a statement of doctrine
each morning, which was laid before the Assembly, discussed, and
approved. They found, to their delight, that "though they had been
launched singly, they had all been steering their coup by the same chart,
and been bound for one and the same port; and that upon the general
search now made, the same holy and blessed truths of all sorts which are
current and warrantable among the other churches of Christ in the world,
had been their lading." It is an interesting fact, that, with the
exception of its statements on church order, the articles of the Savoy
Confession bear a close resemblance to those of the famous Confession of
the Westminster divines,--in most places retaining its very words. This
was a high and graceful tribute to the excellence of that noble commend.
And though Baxter, irritated by the form of some of its statements, wrote
severely against the Savoy Assembly, yet a spirit of extraordinary
devotion appears to have animated and sustained its conferences. "There
was the most eminent presence of the Lord," says an eyewitness, "with
those who were then assembled, that ever I knew since I had a being."
And, as the natural consequence of this piety, there was an enlarged
charity towards other churches "holding the Head." In the preface to the
Confession, which Owen is understood to have written, and from which we
have already made some beautiful extracts, this blessed temper shines
forth in language that seems to have anticipated the standing-point to
which the living churches of our own times are so hopefully pointing. We
are reminded in one place that "the differences between Presbyterians and
Independents are differences between fellow-servants;" and in another
place, the principle is avowed, that "churches consisting of persons
sound in the faith and of good conversation, ought not to refuse
communion with each other, though they walk not in all things according
to the same rule of church order." It is well known that the Savoy
Confession has never come into general use among the Independents; but
there is reason to think that its first publication had the best effects;
and in all likelihood the happy state of things which Philip Henry
describes as distinguishing this period is referable, in part at least,
to the assurance of essential unity which the Savoy Confession afforded.
"There was a great change," says he, "in the tempers of good people
throughout the nation, and a mighty tendency to peace and unity, as if
they were by consent weary of their long clashings."
  What would have been the effects of these proceedings upon the policy
of the Protector, had his life been prolonged, we can now only surmise.
Ere the Savoy Assembly had commenced its deliberations, Oliver Cromwell
was struggling with a mortal distemper in the palace of Whitewall. The
death of his favourite daughter, Lady Claypole, as well as the cares of
his government, had told at length upon his iron frame; and on September
3, 1658, the night of the most awful storm that had ever shaken the
island, and the anniversary of some of his greatest battles, Oliver
Cromwell passed into the eternal world. It is no duty of ours to describe
the character of this wonderful man; but our references to Owen have
necessarily brought us into frequent contact with his history; and we
have not sought to conceal our conviction of his religious sincerity and
our admiration of his greatness. Exaggerate his faults as men may, the
hypocritical theory of his character, so long the stereotyped
representation of history, cannot be maintained. Those who refuse him all
credit for religion must explain to us how his hypocrisy escaped the
detection of the most religious men of his times, who, like Owens, had
the best opportunities of observing him. Those who accuse him of
despotism must tell us how it was that England, under his sway, enjoyed
more liberty than it had ever done before. Those who see in his character
no qualities of generous patriotism, and few even of enlarged
statesmanship, must reconcile this with the fact of his developing the
internal resources of England to an extent which had never been
approached by any previous ruler,--raising his country to the rank of a
first power in Europe, until his very name became a terror to despots,
and a shield to those who, like the bleeding Vaudois in the valleys of
Piedmont, appealed to his compassion.
  Owen, and other leading men among the Puritans, have been represented,
by writers such as Burnet, as offering up the most fanatical prayers for
the Protector's recovery; and after his death, on occasion of a fast, in
the presence of Richard and the other members of his family, as almost
irreverently reproaching God for his removal. It would be too much to
affirm, that clothing extravagant or extreme was spoken, even by
eminently good men, at a crisis so exciting; but there is every reason to
think that Owen was not present at the deathbed of the Protector at all;
and Burnet's statement, when traced to its source, is found to have
originated in an impression of Tillotson's, who was as probably mistaken
as otherwise. Vague gossip must not be received as the material of
biography. At the same time, it cannot be doubted that the death of
Cromwell filled Owen and his friends with profound regret and serious
apprehension. His life and power had been the greed security for their
religious liberties; and now by his death that security was dissolved.
Cromwell during his lifetime had often predicted, "They will bring all to
confusion again;" and now that his presiding hand was removed, the lapse
of a little time was sufficient to show that he had too justly forecast
the future. Ere we glance, however, at the rapid changes of those coming
years, we must once more turn to Owen's labours as an author. 
  In 1657 he published one of his best devotional treatises,--"Of
Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, each Person
distinctly, in Love, Grace, consolation, etc." It forms the substance of
a series of sermons preached by him at Oxford during his
vice-chancellorship, and is another evidence of his "close walk with Gad"
during the excitements and engagements of that high official position.
There is, no doubt, some truth in the remark, that he carries out the
idea of distinct communion between the believer and each of the persons
of the Godhead to an extent for which there is no scriptural precedent;
and this arises from another habit, observable in some degree even in
this devotional composition,--that of making the particular subject on
which he treats the centre around which he gathers all the great truths
of the Gospel; but, when these deductions have been made, what a rich
treasure is this work of Owen's! He leads us by green pastures and still
waters, and lays open the exhaustless springs of the Christian's hidden
life with Christ in God. It is easy to understand how some parts of it
should have been unintelligible, and should even have appeared incoherent
to persons whose creed was nothing more than an outward badge; and
therefore we are not surprised that it should have provoked the scoffing
remarks of a Rational ecclesiastic twenty years afterwards; but to one
who possesses even a faint measure of spiritual life, we know few
exercises more congenial or salutary than its perusal. It is like passing
from the dusty and beaten path into a garden full of the most fragrant
flowers, from which you return still bearing about your person some parts
of its odours, that reveal where you have been. And those who read the
book with somewhat of this spiritual susceptibility, will sympathize with
the glowing words of Daniel Burgess regarding it: "Alphonsus, king of
Spain, is said to have found food and physic in reading Livy; and
Ferdinand, king of Sicily, in reading Quintus Curtius;--but you have here
nobler entertainment, vastly richer dainties, incomparably more sovereign
medicines: I had almost said, the very highest of angel's food is here
set before you; and, as Pliny speaks, 'Permista deliciis auxilia,'--
things that minister unto grace and comfort, to holy life and liveliness"
  In the same year Owen was engaged in an important and protracted
controversy on the subject of schism, which drew forth from him a
succession of publications, and exposed him to the assaults of many
adversaries. Foster has sarcastically remarked on the great convenience
of having a number of words that will answer the purposes of ridicule or
reprobation, without having any precise meaning attached to them; and the
use that has commonly been made of the obnoxious term, "Schism," is an
illustration in point. Dominant religious parties have ever been ready to
hurl this hideous weapon at those who have separated from them, from
whatever cause; and the phrase has derived its chief power to injure from
its vagueness. The Church of Rome has flung it at the Churches of the
Reformation, and the Reformed Churches that stand at different degrees of
distance from Rome, have been too ready to cast it at each other. Owen
and his friends, now began to feel the injurious effects of this, in the
frequent application of the term to themselves; and he was induced, in
consequence, to write on the subject, with the view especially of
distinguishing between the scriptural and the ecclesiastical use of the
term, and, by simply defining it, to deprive it of its mischievous power.
This led to his treatise, "Of Schism; the true nature of it discovered,
and considered with reference to the present differences in region:" in
which he shows that schism, as described in Scripture, consists in
"causeless differences and contentions amongst the members of a
particular church, contrary to that love, prudence, and forbearance,
which are required of them to be exercised among themselves, and towards
one another." From this two consequences followed;-- that separation from
any church was not in its own nature schism; and that those churches
which, by their corruption or tyranny, rendered separation necessary,
were the true schismatics: so that, as Vincent Alsop wittily remarked,
"He that undertakes to play this great gun, had need to be very careful
and spunge it well, lest it fire at home." It is one of Dr Owen's best
controversial treatises, being exhaustive, and yet not marked by that
discursiveness which is the fault of some of his writings, and bringing
into play some of his greatest excellencies as a writer,--his remarkable
exegetical talent, his intimate knowledge of Scripture, and mastery of
the stores of ecclesiastical history. Dr Hammond replied to him from
among the Episcopalians, and Cawdrey from among the Presbyterians,--a
stormy petrel, with whose spirit, Owen remarks, the Presbyterians in
general had no sympathy; but Owen remained unquestionable master of the
  It was not thus with the controversy which we have next to describe.
Owen had prepared a valuable little essay,--"Of the Divine Original,
Authority, Self-evidencing Light and Power of the Scriptures; with an
answer to that inquiry, How we know the Scriptures to be the word of God"
the principal design of which, as its title so far indicates, was to
prove that, independently altogether of its external evidence, the Bible
contains, in the nature of its truths and in their efficacy on the mind,
satisfactory evidence of the divine source from which it has emanated;--
an argument which was afterwards nobly handled by Halyburton, and which
has recently been illustrated and illuminated by Dr Chalmers with his
characteristic eloquence, in one of the chapters of his "Theological
Institutes" In this essay he had laid down the position, that "as the
Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were immediately and entirely
given out by God himself,--his mind being in them represented to us
without the least interveniency of such mediums and ways as were capable
of giving change or alteration to the least iota or syllable,--so, by his
good and merciful providential dispensation, in his love to his Word and
church, his Word as first given out by him is preserved unto us entire in
the original languages." It happened that while this essay was in the
press, the Prolegomella and Appendix of Walton's invaluable and immortal
work, the "London Polyglott," came into Owen's hands. But when he glanced
at the formidable array of various readings, which was presented by
Walton and his coadjutors as the result of their collation of manuscripts
and versions, he became alarmed for his principles, imagined the
authority of the Scriptures to be placed in imminent jeopardy, and, in an
essay which he entitled, "A Vindication of the Purity and Integrity of
the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Old and New Testaments, in some
considerations on the Prolegomena and Appendix to the late Biblia
Polyglotta," rashly endeavoured to prove that Walton had greatly
exaggerated the number of various readings, and insinuated his
apprehension, that if Walton's principles were admitted, they would lead,
by a very direct course, to Popery or Infidelity. It is needless to say
how undeniable is the fact of various readings; how utterly groundless
were the fears which Dr Owen expressed because of them; and how much the
labours of learned biblicists, in the region which was so nobly
cultivated by Walton and his associates, have confirmed, instead of
disturbing our confidence in the inspired canon. And yet it is not
difficult to understand how the same individual, who was unsurpassed,
perhaps unequalled, in his own age in his knowledge of the subject-matter
of revelation, should have been comparatively uninformed on questions
which related to the integrity of the sacred text itself. The error of
Owen consisted in making broad assertions on a subject on which he
acknowledged himself to be, after all, but imperfectly informed; and,
from a mere a priori ground, challenging facts that were sustained by
very abundant evidence, and charging those facts with the most revolting
consequences. Let those theologians be warned by it, who, on the ground
of preconceived notions and incorrect interpretations of Scripture, have
called in question some of the plainest discoveries of science; and be
assured that truth, come from what quarter it may, can never place the
Word of God in jeopardy.
  Walton saw that he had the advantage of Owen, and in "The Considerator
considered, and the Biblia Polyglotta Vindicated," successfully defended
his position, and did what he could to hold Owen up to the ridicule of
the learned world. Though he was Owen's victor in this controversy, yet
the arrogance of his bearing excites the suspicion that something more
than learned zeal bore him into the contest, and that the exasperated
feelings of the ecclesiastic made him not unwilling to humble this leader
and champion of the Puritans in the dust. The respective merits of the
two combatants in this contest, which excited so much commotion in the
age in which it occurred, are admirably remarked on by Dr Chalmers: "The
most interesting collision upon this question that I know of, between
unlike men of unlike minds, was that between the most learned of our
Churchmen on the one hand, Brian Walton, author, or rather editor of the
'London Polyglots,' and the most talented and zealous of our sectarians
on the other, Dr John Owen. The latter adventured himself most rashly
into a combat, and under a false alarm for the results of the erudition
of the former; and the former retorted contemptuously upon his
antagonist, as he would upon a mystic or enthusiastic devotee. The
amalgamation of the two properties thus arrayed in hostile conflict,
would have just made up a perfect theologian. It would have been the
wisdom of the letter in alliance with the wisdom of the spirit; instead
of which I know not what was most revolting,-- the lordly insolence of
the prelate, or the outrageous violence of the Puritan. In the first
place, it was illiterate in Owen, to apprehend that the integrity of the
Scripture would be unsettled by the exposure, in all their magnitude and
multitude, of its various readings; but in the second place, we stand in
doubt of Walton's spirit and his seriousness, when he groups and
characterizes as the new-light men and ranting enthusiasts of these days,
those sectaries, many of whom, though far behind him in the lore of
theology as consisting in the knowledge of its vocables, were as far
before him in acquaintance with the subject-matter of theology, as
consisting of its doctrines, and of their application to the wants and
the principles of our moral nature."
  About the time of his emerging from this unfortunate controversy, Owen
gave to the world his work on Temptation,--another of those masterly
treatises in which he "brings the doctrines of theology to bear on the
wants and principles of our moral nature," and from which whole
paragraphs flash upon the mind of the reader with an influence that makes
him feel as if they had been written for himself alone.
  In his preface to that work, Owen (no doubt reflecting his impressions
of public events) speaks of "providential dispensations, in reference to
the public concernments of these nations, as perplexed and entangled,--
the footsteps of God lying in the deep, where his paths are not known."
And certainly the rapid and turbulent succession of changes that took
place soon after the removal of Cromwell's presiding genius from the
helm, might well fill him with deepening anxiety and alarm. These changes
it is not our province minutely to trace. Richard's feeble hand, as is
well known, proved itself unfit to control the opposing elements of the
state; and a few months saw him return not unwillingly, to the
unambitious walks of private life. Owen has been charged with talking
part in the schemes which drove Richard from the Protectorate; but the
charge proceeded upon a mere impression of Dr Manton's, produced from
hearing the fragment of a conversation, and was repeatedly and
indignantly denied by Owen during his life. Then followed the recalling
of that remnant of the Long Parliament which had been dispersed by
Cromwell,--a measure which Owen advised, as, on the whole, the most
likely to secure the continuance of an unrestricted liberty. But the
Parliament, unwilling to obey the dictation of a dominant party in the
Army, was once more dispersed by force, while the army itself began to be
divided into ambitious factions. A new danger threatened from the north
general Monk, marking the state of things in England, and especially the
divided condition of the army, was making preparations to enter England.
What were his designs? At one period he had befriended the Independents,
but latterly he had sided with the powerful body of the Presbyterians.
Would he now, then, endeavour to set up a new Protectorate, favouring the
Presbyterians and oppressing other sects or would he throw his sword into
the scale of the Royalists, and bring back the Stuarts? A deputation of
Independent ministers, consisting of Carol and others, was sent into
Scotland, bearing a letter to Monk that had been written by Owen,
representing to him the injustice of his entering England, and the danger
to which it would expose their most precious liberties. But the deputies
returned, unable to influence his movements, or even to penetrate his
ultimate designs. Owen and his friends next endeavoured to arouse the
army to a vigorous resistance of Monk, and even offered to raise 100,000
pounds among the Independents for their assistance;--but they found the
army divided and dispirited; and Monk, gradually approaching London,
entered it at length, not only unresisted, but welcomed by thousands, the
Long Parliament having again found courage to resume its sittings. In a
short while the Long Parliament was finally dissolved by its own content,
and soon after the Convention Parliament assembled. Monk at length threw
off his hitherto impenetrable disguise, and ventured to introduce letters
from Charles Stuart. It was voted, at his instigation, that the ancient
constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, should be restored, and Charles
invited back to the throne of his ancestors; and the great majority of
the nation, weary of the years of faction and turbulence, hailed the
change with joy. But in the enthusiasm of the moment, no means were taken
to secure an adjustment of those vital questions which had been agitated
between the people and the crown. The act, therefore, which restored the
king, restored the laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, to the state in
which they had been at the commencement of the war, reestablished the
hierarchy, and constituted all classes of separatists a proscribed class;
and Owen and his party had little to trust to for the continuance of
their religious liberties but the promise of Charles at Breda, that he
"would have a respect to tender consciences." A little time sufficed to
show that the king's word was but a miserable security; and the beautiful
words of Baxter now began to be fulfilled in their darkest part:
"Ordinarily, God would have vicissitudes of summer and winter, day and
night, that the church may grow externally in the summer of prosperity,
and internally and radically in the winter of adversity; yet usually
their night is longer than their day, and that day itself has its storms
and tempests." The night was now coming to the Puritans.
  A few months before the restoration of Charles, Owen had been displaced
from the beanery of Christ Church, and thus his last official connection
with Oxford severed. He now retired to his native village of Stadham in
the neighbourhood, where he had become the proprietor of a small estate.
During his vice-chancellorship, it had been his custom to preach in this
place on the afternoons of those Sabbaths in which he was not employed at
St. Mary's; and a little congregation which he had gathered by this means
now joyfully welcomed him among them as their pastor. It was probably
while at Stadham that he finished the preparation of one of his most
elaborate theological works, whose title will supply a pretty accurate
idea at once of its general plan and of its remarkable variety of
matter,-- "Theologoumena, etc.; or, six books on the nature, rise,
progress, and study of true theology. In which, also, the origin and
growth of true and false religious worship, and the more remarkable
declensions and restorations of the church are traced from their first
sources. To which are added digressions concerning universal grace,--the
origin of the sciences,--notes of the Roman Church,--the origin of
letters,-- the ancient Hebrew letters,--Hebrew punctuation,--versions of
the Scriptures,--Jewish rites," etc. It is matter of regret that the
"Theologoumena" has hitherto been locked up in the Latin tongue; for
though parts have been superseded by more recent works, there is no book
in the English language that occupies the wide field over which Owen
travels with his usual power, and scatters around him his learned stores.
  In all likelihood Owen hoped that he would be permitted to remain
unmolested in his quiet village, and that his very obscurity would prove
his protection; but he had miscalculated the leniency of the new rulers.
An act passed against the Quakers, declared it illegal for more than five
persons to assemble in any unauthorized place for religious worship; and
this act admitting of application to all separatists, soon led to the
expulsion of Owen from his charge, and to the dispersion of his little
flock. In a little while he saw himself surrounded by many companions in
tribulation. The Presbyterians, who had shown such eagerness for the
restoration of Charles to his throne, naturally expected that such
measures would be taken as would comprehend them within the
establishment, without doing violence to their conscientious
difficulties; and Charles and his ministers flattered the hope so long as
they thought it unsafe to despise it; but it was not long ere the Act of
Uniformity drove nearly two thousand of them from their churches into
persecution and poverty, and brought once more into closer fellowship
with Owen those excellent men whom he had continued to love and esteem in
the midst of all their mutual differences.
  Sir Edward Hyde, the future Lord Clarendon, was now lord chancellor,
and the most influential member of the government, and means were used to
obtain an interview between Owen and him, with the view, it is probable,
of inducing him to relax the growing severity of his measures against the
Nonconformists. But the proud minister was inexorable. He insisted that
Owen should abstain from preaching; but at the one time, not ignorant of
the great talents of the Puritan, strongly urged him to employ his pen at
the present juncture in writing against Popery. Owen did not comply with
the first part of the injunction, but continued to preach in London and
elsewhere, to little secret assemblies, and even at times more publicly,
when the vigilance of informers was relaxed, or the winds of persecution
blew for a little moment less fiercely. But circumstances soon put it in
his power to comply with the latter part of it; and those circumstances
are interesting, both as illustrative of the charter of Owen and of the
spirit and tendencies of the times.
  John Vincent Cane, a Franciscan friar, had published a book entitled,
"Fiat Lux; or, a Guide in Differences of Religion betwixt Papist and
Protestant, Presbyterian and Independent;" in which, under the guise of
recommending moderation and charity, he invites men over to the Church of
Rome, as the only infallible remedy for all church divisions. The work
falling in to some extent with the current of feeling in certain
quarters, had already gone through two impressions ere it reached the
hands of Owen, and is believed to have been sent to him at length by
Clarendon. Struck with the subtile and pernicious character of the work,
whose author he describes as "a Naphtali speaking goodly words, but while
his voice was Jacob's voice, his hands were the hands of Esau," Owen set
himself to answer it, and soon produced his "animadversions on Fiat Lux,
by a Protestant;" which so completely exposed its sophistries and hidden
aims, as to make the disconcerted friar lose his temper. The friar
replied in a "Vindication of Fiat Lux,"--in which he betrayed a
vindictive wish to detect his opponent, and bring upon him the resentment
of those in power; describing him as "a part of that dismal tempest which
had borne all before it,--not only church and state, but reason, right,
honesty, and all true religion." To which Owen rejoined, now manfully
giving his name, and, according to his custom, not satisfied with
answering his immediate opponent, entered largely into the whole Popish
controversy. Few things are more remarkable in Owen than the readiness
with which he could thus summon to his use the vast stores of his
accumulated learning.
  But, even after this good service had been done to the common cause of
Protestantism, there seemed a danger that this second work would not be
permitted to be published; and it is curious to notice the nature of the
objections, and the quarter whence they came. The power of licensing
books in divinity was now in the hands of the bishops; and they were
found to have two weighty objections to Owen's treatise. First, That in
speaking of the evangelists and apostles, and even of Peter, he withheld
from them the title of "saint;" and, secondly, That he had questioned
whether it could be proved that Peter had ever been at Rome. Owen's
treatment of these objections was every way worthy of himself In
reference to the former, he reminded his censors that the titles of
evangelist and apostle were superior to that of saint, inasmuch as this
belonged to all the people of God; at the same time, he expressed his
willingness to yield this point. But the second he could only yield on
one condition,--namely, that they would prove that he have been mistaken.
Owen's book at length found its way to the press; not, however, through
the concessions of the bishops, but through the command of Sir Edward
Nicolas, one of the principal secretaries of state, who interposed to
overrule their scruples.
  Dr Owen's reputation was greatly extended by these writings; and this
led to a new interview with Clarendon. His lordship acknowledged that he
had done more for the cause of Protestantism than any other man in
England; and, expressing his astonishment that so learned a man should
have been led away by "the novelty of Independency," held out to him the
hope of high preferment in the church if he would conform. Owen undertook
to prove, in answer to any bishop that he might appoint, that the
Independent form of church order, instead of being a novelty, was the
only mode of government in the church for the first two centuries; and as
for his wish to bestow upon him ecclesiastical honours, what he had to
ask for himself and his brethren was, not preferment within the church,
but simple toleration without it. The dazzling bait of a mitre appears to
have been set before all the leading Nonconformists; but not one of them
yielded to its lure. This led the chancellor to inquire what was the
measure of toleration he had to ask;--to which Owen is reported to have
answered, "Liberty for all who assented to the doctrine of the church of
England." This answer has been remarked on by some at the expense of his
consistency and courage; and the explanation has been suggested, that he
now asked not all that he wished, but all that there was the most distant
hope of receiving. It should be remembered, however, in addition, that
many of the most liberal and enlightened men among the Nonconformists of
those days objected to the full toleration of Papists; not, indeed, on
religious, but on political grounds;--both because they were the subjects
of a foreign power, and because of the bearings of the question on the
succession of the Duke of York to the throne; and to, that Owen's plan
would actually have comprehended in it almost the whole of the Protestant
Nonconformists of that age.
  A more honorable way of deliverance from his troubles than conformity
was, about the same time, presented to Dr Owen, in an earnest invitation
from the first Congregational church of Boston, in New England, to become
their pastor. They had "seen his labours, and heard of the grace and
wisdom communicated to him from the Father of lights;" and when so many
candles were not permitted to shine in England, they were eager to secure
such a burning light for their infant colony. It does not very clearly
appear what sort of answer Owen returned. One biographer represents him
as willing to go, and as even having some of his property embarked in a
vessel bound for New England, when he was stopped by orders of the court;
others represent him as unwilling to leave behind him the struggling
cause, and disposed to wait in England for happier days.
  But neither the representations of Owen nor of others who were friendly
to the Nonconformists, had any influence in changing the policy of those
who were now in power. The golden age to which Clarendon and his
associates sought to bring back the government and the country, was that
of Laud, with all the tortures of the Star Chamber, the dark machinery of
the High Commission, and the dread alternative of abject conformity, or
proscription and ruin. And the licentious Charles, while affecting at
times a greater liberality, joined with his ministers in their worst
measures; either from a secret sympathy with them, or, as is more
probable, from a hope that the ranks of Nonconformity would at length be
so greatly swelled as to render a measure of toleration necessary that
would include in it the Romanist along with the Puritan. Pretexts were
sought after and eagerly seized upon, in order to increase the rigours of
persecution; and new acts passed, such as the Conventicle Act, which
declared it penal to hold meetings for worship, even in barns and
highways, and offered high rewards to informers,--and whose deliberate
intention was, either to compel the sufferers to conformity, or to goad
them on to violence and crime.
  In the midst of these growing rigours, which were rapidly filling the
prisons with victims, and crowding the emigrant ships with exiles, the
plague appeared, sweeping London as with a whirlwind of death. Then it
was seen who had been the true spiritual shepherds of the people, and who
had been the strangers and the hirelings. The clerical oppressors of the
Puritans fled from the presence of the plague, while the proscribed
preachers emerged from their hiding-places, shared the dangers of that
dreadful hour, addressed instruction and consolation to the perishing and
bereaved, and stood between the living and the dead, until the plague was
stayed. One thing, however, had been disclosed by these occurrences; and
this was the undiminished influence of the Nonconformist pastors over
their people, and the increased love of their people to them; nor could
the pastors ever be cut off from the means of temporal support, so long
as intercourse between them and their people was maintained. This led to
the passing of another act, whose ingenious cruelty historians have vied
with each other adequately to describe. In the Parliament at Oxford,
which had fled thither in order to escape the ravages of the plague, a
law was enacted which virtually banished all Nonconformist ministers five
miles from any city, town, or borough, that sent members to Parliament,
and five miles from any place whatsoever where they had at any time in a
number of years past preached; unless they would take an oath which it
was well-known no Nonconformist could take, and which the Earl of
Southampton even declared, in his place in Parliament, no honest man
could subscribe. This was equivalent to driving them into exile in their
own land; and, in addition to the universal severance of the pastors from
their people, by banishing them into remote rural districts, it exposed
them not only to the caprice of those who were the instruments of
government, and to all the vile acts of spies and informers, but often to
the insults and the violence of ignorant and licentious mobs.
  Dr Owen suffered in the midst of all these troubles; and one anecdote,
which most probably belongs to this period, presents us with another
picture of the times. He had gone down to visit his old friends in the
neighbourhood of Oxford, and adopting the usual precautions of the
period, had approached his lodging after nightfall. But notwithstanding
all his privacy, he was observed, and information given of the place
where he lay. Early in the morning, a company of troopers came and
knocked at the door. The mistress coming down, boldly opened the door,
and asked them what they would have.--"Have you any lodgers in your
house?" they inquired. Instead of directly answering their question, she
asked "whether they were seeking for Dr Owen?" "Yes," said they; on which
she assured them he had departed that morning at an earlier hour. The
soldiers believing her word, immediately rode away. In the meantime the
Doctor, whom the woman really supposed to have been gone, as he intended
the night before, arose, and going into a neighbouring field, whither he
ordered his horse to be brought to him, hastened away by an unfrequented
path towards London.
  A second terrible visitation of Heaven was needed, in order to obtain
for the persecuted Puritans a temporary breathing-time: and this second
visitation came. The fire followed quickly in the footsteps of the
plague, and the hand of intolerance was for the moment paralysed, if,
indeed, its heart did not for a time relent. The greater number of the
churches were consumed in the dreadful congregation. Large wooden houses
called tabernacles were quickly reared, amid the scorched and blackened
ruins; and in these, the Nonconformist ministers preached to anxious and
solemnized multitudes. The long silent voices of Owen, and Manton, and
Carol, and others, awoke the remembrance of other times; and earnest
      "Preached as though he never should preach again;
      And like a dying man to dying men."
There was no possibility of silencing these preachers at such a moment.
And the fall of Clarendon and the disgrace of Sheldon soon afterwards
helped to prolong and enlarge their precarious liberty.
  Many tracts, for the most part published anonymously, and without even
the printer's name, had issued from Owen's pen during these distracting
years, having for their object to represent the impolicy and injustice of
persecution for conscience' sake. He had also published "A Brief
Instruction in the Worship of God and Discipline of the churches of the
New Testament, by way of question and answer,"-- a title which
sufficiently describe9 the book; and some years earlier, a well compacted
and admirably reasoned "Discourse concerning Liturgies and their
Imposition," which illustrates the principle on which, when a student at
Oxford, he had resisted the impositions of Laud,--a principle which
reaches to the very foundation of the argument between the High Churchman
and the Puritan. And his publications during the following year show with
what untiring assiduity, in the midst of all those outward storms, he had
been plying the work of authorship, and laying up rich stores for
posterity. Three of Owen's best works bear the date of 1668.
  First, there is his treatise "On the Nature, Power, Deceit, and
Prevalence of Indwelling Sin in Believers;" on which Dr Chalmers has well
remarked, that "there is no treatise of its learned and pious author more
fitted to be useful to the Christian disciple; and that it is most
important to be instructed on this subject by one who had reached such
lofty attainments in holiness, and whose profound and experimental
acquaintance with the spiritual life so well fitted him for expounding
its nature and operations." Next came his "Exposition of the 130th
Psalm,"--a work which, as we have already hinted, stood intimately
connected with the history of Owen's own inner life; and which,
conducting the reader through the turnings and windings along many of
which he himself had wandered in the season of his spiritual distresses,
shows him the way in which he at length found peace. When Owen sat down
to the exposition of this psalm, it was not with the mere literary
implements of study scattered around him, or in the spirit with which the
mere scholar may be supposed to sit down to the explanation of an ancient
classic; but, when he laid open the book of God, he laid open at the same
time the book of his own heart and of his own history, and produced a
book which, with all its acknowledged prolixity, and even its occasional
obscurity, is rich in golden thoughts, and instinct with the living
experience of "one who spoke what he knew, and testified what he had
  Then appeared the first volume of Owen's greatest work, his "Exposition
of the Epistle to the Hebrews,"--a work which it would be alike
superfluous to describe or to praise. For more than twenty years his
thoughts had been turned to the preparing of this colossal commentary on
the most difficult of all the Pauline epistles; and at length he had
given himself to it with ripened powers,--with the gathered treasures of
an almost universal reading, and with the richer treasures still of a
deep Christian experience. Not disdainful of the labours of those who had
gone before him, he yet found that the mine had been opened, rather than
exhausted; and, as he himself strongly expressed it, that "sufficient
ground for renewed investigation had been left, not only for the present
generation, but for all them that should succeed, to the consummation of
all things" The spirit and manner in which he pursued his work is
described by himself, and forms one of the most valuable portions of
autobiography in all Owen's writings:-- 
  "For the exposition of the epistle itself, I confess, as was said
before, that I have had thoughts of it for many years, and have not been
without regard to it in the whole course of my studies. But yet I must
now say, that, after all my searching and reading, prayer and assiduous
meditation have been my only resort, and by far the most useful means of
light and assistance. By these have my thought been freed from many an
entanglement, into which the writings of others had cast me, or from
which they could not deliver me. Careful I have been, as of my life and
soul, to bring no prejudicate sense to the words,--to impose no meaning
of my own or other men's upon them, nor to be imposed on by the
seasonings, pretences, or curiosities of any; but always went nakedly to
the Word itself, to learn humbly the mind of God in it, and to express it
as he should enable me. To this end, I always considered, in the first
place, the sense, meaning, and import of the words of the text,--their
original derivation, use in other authors, especially in the LXX of the
Old Testament, in the books of the New, and particularly the writings of
the same author. Ofttimes the words expressed out of the Hebrew, or the
things alluded to among that people, I found to give much light to the
words of the apostle. To the general rule of attending to the design and
scope of the place, the subject treated of, mediums fixed on for
arguments, and methods of reasoning, I still kept in my eye the time and
season of writing this epistle; the state and condition of those to whom
it was written; their persuasions, prejudices, customs, light, and
traditions I kept also in my view the covenant and worship of the church
of old; the translation of covenant privileges and worship to the
Gentiles upon a new account; the course of providential dispensations
that the Jews were under; the near expiration of their church and state;
the speedy approach of their utter abolition and destruction, with the
temptations that befell them on all these various accounts;--without
which it is impossible for any one justly to follow the apostle, so as to
keep close to his design or fully to understand his meaning." The result
has been, a work unequalled in excellence, except, perhaps, by Vitringa's
noble commentary on Isaiah. It is quite true, that in the department of
verbal criticism, and even in the exposition of some occasional passages,
future expositors may have found Owen at fault,--it is even true that the
Rabbinical lore with which the work abounds does far more to cumber than
to illustrate the text; but when all this has been conceded, how amazing
is the power with which Owen has unfolded the proportions, and brought
out the meaning and spirit, of this massive epistle! It is like some vast
monster filled with solemn light, on whose minuter details it might be
easy to suggest improvement; but whose stable walls and noble columns
astonish you at the skill and strength of the builder the longer you
gaze; and there is true sublimity in the exclamation with which Owen laid
down his pen when he had finished it: "Now, my work is done; it is time
for me to die." Perhaps no minister in Great Britain or America for the
last hundred and fifty years has sat down to the exposition of this
portion of inspired truth without consulting Owen's commentary. The
appalling magnitude of the work is the most formidable obstacle to its
usefulness; and this the author himself seems to have anticipated even in
his own age of ponderous and portly folios; for we find him modestly
suggesting the possibility of treating it as if it were three separate
works, and of reading the philological, or the exegetical, or the
practical portion alone. We are quite aware that one man of great
eminence has spoken in terms of disparagement almost bordering on
contempt of one part of this great work,--"The Preliminary
Exercitations;" but we must remember Hades love of literary paradoxes, in
common with the great lexicographer whom he imitated; and those who are
familiar with the writings of Owen--which Hall acknowledges he was not,--
will be more disposed to subscribe to the glowing terms in which his
great rival in eloquence has spoken of Owen's Exposition: "Let me again
recommend your studious and sustained attention," says Dr Chalmers to his
students, "to the Epistle to the Hebrews; and I should rejoice if any of
you felt emboldened on my advice to grapple with a work so ponderous as
Owen's commentary on that epistle,--a lengthened and labourious
enterprise, certainly, but now is your season for abundant labour. And
the only thing to be attended to is, that, in virtue of being well
directed, it shall not be wasted on a bulky, though at the same time
profitless erudition. I promise you a hundredfold more advantage from the
perusal of this greatest work of John Owen, than from the perusal of all
that has been written on the subject of the heathen sacrifices. It is a
work of gigantic strength as well as gigantic size; and he who has
mastered it is very little short, both in respect to the doctrinal and
the practical of christianity, of being an erudite and accomplished
  It has been remarked, that there is no lesson so difficult to learn as
that of true religious toleration, for almost every sect in turn, when
tempted by the power, has resorted to the practice of persecution; and
this remark has seldom obtained more striking confirmation than in what
was occurring at this time in another part of the world. While in England
the Independents, and Nonconformists generally, were passing from one
degree of persecution to another, at the hands of the restored adherents
of Prelacy; the Independents of New England were perpetrating even
greater severities against the Baptists and Quakers in that infant
colony. Whipping, fines, imprisonment, selling into slavery, were
punishments inflicted by them on thousands who, after all, did not differ
from their persecutors on any point that was fundamental in religion. One
of Owen's biographers has taken very unnecessary pains to show that the
conduct of these churches had no connection with their principles as
Independents; but this only renders their conduct the more inexcusable,
and proves how deeply rooted the spirit of intolerance is in human
nature. Owen and his friends heard of these events with indignation and
shame, and even feared that they might be turned to their disadvantage in
England; and, in a letter subscribed along with him by all his brethren
in London, faithfully remonstrated with the Near England persecutors. "We
only make it our hearty request," said they, "that you will trust God
with his truth and ways, so far as to suspend all rigorous proceedings in
corporeal restraints or punishments on persons that dissent from you, and
practice the principles of their dissent without danger or disturbance to
the civil peace of the place." Sound advice is here given, but we should
have relished a little more of the severity of stern rebuke.
  We have seen that the great fire of London led to a temporary
connivance at the public preaching of the Nonconformist ministers; "it
being at the first," as Baxter remarked, "too gross to forbid an undone
people all public worship with too great rigour." A scheme was soon after
devised for giving to this liberty a legal sanction, and which might even
perhaps incorporate many of the Nonconformists with the Established
Church,--such men as Wilkins, bishop of Chester, Tillotson, and
Stillingfleet, warmly espousing the proposal. But no sooner did the
scheme become generally known, as well as the influential names by which
it was approved, than the implacable adversaries of the Nonconformists
anew bestirred themselves, and succeeded in extinguishing its generous
provisions. It became necessary, however, in the temper of the nation, to
do something in vindication of these severities; and no readier expedient
suggested itself than to decry toleration as unfriendly to social order,
and still more to blacken the character of the Nonconformist sufferers. A
fit instrument for this work presented himself in Samuel Parker, a man of
menial origin, who had for a time been connected with the Puritans, but
who, deserting them when they became sufferers, was now aspiring after
preferment in the Episcopal Church, and whom Burnet describes as "full of
satirical vivacity, considerably learned, but of no judgment; and as to
religion, rather impious." In his "Discourse of Ecclesiastical Polity,"
the "authority of the civil magistrate over the consciences of subjects
in matters of external religion is asserted, the mischief and
inconveniences of toleration are represented, and all pretences pleaded
in favour of liberty of conscience are fully answered." Such is the
atrocious title-page of his book, and to a modern reader, the undertaking
to which it pledges him must seem rather bold; but the confident author
is reported to have firmly believed in his own success. Holding out his
book to the Earl of Anglesea, he said, "Let us see, my lord, whether any
of your chaplains can answer it;" and the bigoted Sheldon, sympathizing
with its spirit, naturally believed also in the exceeding force of its
arguments. Dr Owen was chosen to reply to Parker; which he did, in one of
the noblest controversial treatises that were ever penned by him,--"Truth
and Innocence Vindicated, in a Survey of a Discourse on Ecclesiastical
Polity," etc. The mind of Owen seems to have been whetted by his deep
sense of wrong, and he writes with a remarkable clearness and force of
argument; while he indulges at times in a style of irony which is
justified not more by the folly than by the baseness and wickedness of
Parker's sentiments. There is no passage, even in the writings of Locke,
in which the province of the civil magistrate is more distinctly defined
than in some portions of his reply; and it is curious to notice how, in
his allusions to trade, he anticipates some of the most established
principles of our modern political economy. Owen's work greatly increased
his celebrity among his brethren;--even some of Parker's friends could
with difficulty conceal the impression that he had found more than a
match in the strong-minded and sturdy Puritan; and Parker, worsted in
argument, next sought to overwhelm his opponent with a scurrility that
breathed the most undisguised vindictiveness. he was "the great
bellwether of disturbance and sedition,"--"a person who would have vied
with Mahomet himself both for boldness and imposture,"--"a viper, so
swollen with venom that it must either burst or spit its poison;" so that
whoever wished to do well to his country, "could never do it better
service than by beating down the interest and reputation of such sons of
Belial." On this principle, at least, Parker himself might have ranked
high as a patriot.
  But the controversy was not over. Parker had not time to recover from
the ponderous club of Owen, when he was assailed by the keen edged wit of
Andrew Marvell. This accomplished man, the undersecretary and bosom
friend of Milton, reviewed Parker's work in his "Rehearsal Transposed,"--
a work of which critics have spoken as rivaling in some places the
causticity and neatness of Swift, and in others equalling the eloquent
invective of Junius and the playful exuberance of Burke. The conceited
ecclesiastic was overwhelmed, and a number of masked combatants
perceiving his plight, now rushed to his defense; in all whom, however,
Marvell refused to distinguish any but Parker. In a second part of his
"Rehearsal," he returned to the pen-combat, as Wood has called it; and
transfixed his victim with new arrows from his exhaustless quiver. It is
impossible to read many parts of it yet, without sharing with the
laughers of the age in the influence of Marvell's genius. Ridiculing his
self-importance, he says, "If he chance but to sneeze, he prays that "the
foundations of the earth be not shaken". Ever since he crept up to be but
"the weathercock of a steeple", he trembles and cracks at every puff of
wind that blows about him, as "if the Church of England were falling."
Marvell's wit was triumphant; and even Charles and his court joined in
laughing at Parker's discomfiture. "Though the delinquent did not lay
violent hands on himself," says D'Israeli, "he did what, for an author,
may be considered as desperate a course,-- withdraw from the town, and
cease writing for many years," secretly nursing a revenge which he did
not dare to gratify until he knew that Marvell was in his grave.
  It was one thing, however, to conquer in the field of argument, and
another thing to disarm the intolerance of those in power. The Parliament
which met in 1671, goaded on by those sleepless ecclesiastics who were
animated by the malign spirit of Parker, confirmed all the old acts
against the Nonconformists, and even passed others of yet more
intolerable rigour. It is impossible to predict to what consequences the
enforcement of these measures must soon have led, had not Charles, by his
declaration of indulgence, of his own authority suspended the penal
statutes against Nonconformists and Popish recusants, and given them
permission to renew their meetings for public worship on their procuring
a license, which would be granted for that purpose. This measure was, no
doubt, unconstitutional in its form, and more than doubtful in the
motives which prompted it; but many of the Nonconformists, seeing in it
only the restoration of a right of which they ought never to have been
deprived,--and some of them, like Owen, regarding it as "an expedient,
according to the custom in former times, for the peace and security of
the kingdom, until the whole matter might be settled in Parliament,"
joyfully took shelter under its provisions.
  The Nonconformists were prompt in improving their precarious
breathing-time. A weekly lecture was instituted at Pinner's Hall by the
Presbyterians and Independents, in testimony of their union of sentiment
on fundamental truths, and as an antidote to Popish, Socinian, and
Infidel opinions. Owen began to preach more publicly in London to a
regular congregation; and his venerable friend, Joseph Carol, having died
soon after the declaration of indulgence, the congregations of the two
ministers consented to unite under the ministry of Owen, in the place of
worship in Leadenhall Street. Owen's church-book presents the names of
some of the chiefs of Nonconformity as members of his flock, and
"honorable women not a few." Among others, there have been found the
names of more than one of the heroes of the army of the Commonwealth,--
such as Lord Charles Fleetwood and Colonel Desborough; certain members of
the Abney family, in whose hospitable mansion the saintly Isaac Watts in
after times found shelter for more than thirty years; the Countess of
Anglesea; and Mrs Bendish, the granddaughter of Cromwell, in whom, it is
said, may of the bodily and mental features of the Protector remarkably
reappeared. Some of these might be able at times to throw their shield
over the head of Owen in those changeful and stormy years. And there were
other persons more powerful still,--such as the Earl of Ornery, the Earl
of Anglesea, Lord Berkeley, Lord Willoughby, Lord Wharton, and Sir John
Tremor, one of the principal secretaries of state; who, though not
members of Owen's church, were religiously disposed, and Owen's friends,
and inclined, as far as their influence went, to mitigate the severities
against the Nonconformists generally.
  Owen's intimacy with these noblemen probable accounts for that
interview to which he was invited by the King and the Duke of York, and
which has been faithfully chronicled by all his biographers. Happening to
be at Tunbridge Wells when his majesty and the duke were also there, he
was introduced to the royal tent. The king freely conversed with him on
the subject of religious liberty, and expressed his wish to see the
Dissenters relieved of their disabilities. On his return to London, he
invited Owen to repeated interviews, uttering the same sentiments as he
had done during the first conversation, and at length intrusted him with
a thousand guineas, to be employed by him in mitigating the sufferings of
his poorer brethren. The general policy of Charles sufficiently accounts
for these gleams of royal sunshine. 
  But the importance of those friendships is not seen by us until we have
marked the use which Owen made of them in the cause of his suffering
brethren. It is well known that when the Parliament again assembled, it
expressed its strong displeasure at the king's indulgence, and never
ceased its remonstrances until the licenses to places of worship had been
withdrawn. A disposition, it is true, began to show itself to distinguish
between the Protestant Nonconformists and the Romanists, and to point
restriction more particularly against the latter; but the act, which was
professedly intended to bear against them was so clumsily constructed as
to be capable of reaching all who did not conform, and Churhmem were not
slow in giving it this direction. The Nonconformists were exposed anew to
the persecuting storm; informers were goaded by increased rewards; and
among thousands of less illustrious sufferers, Richard Baxter suffered
joyfully the spoiling of his goods, and was condemned to what his ardent
spirit did indeed feel bitterly,--a year of almost unbroken silence.
Owen, however, appears to have been left comparatively unmolested,--
probably owing to the influences we have specified; and it is interesting
to learn from an adversary with what zeal and constancy he employed his
advantages to warn and succour the oppressed. "Witness his fishing out
the king's counsels, and inquiring whether things went well to his great
Diana, liberty of conscience?--how his majesty stood affected to it?.--
whether he would connive at it and the execution of the laws against it?
who were or could be made his friends at court?--what bills were like to
be put up in Parliament?.--how that assembly was united or divided? And
according to the disposition of affairs he did acquaint his under
officers; and they, by their letters each post, were to inform their
fraternity in each corner of the kingdom how things were likely to go
with them, how they should order their business, and either for a time
omit or continue their conventicles." Surely this was being able to find
nothing against him, except as concerning the law of his God.
  There was no sufferer in whose behalf Owen exerted his influence more
earnestly than John Bunyan. It is well known that, as a preacher, Bunyan
excited, wherever he went, an interest not surpassed even by the ministry
of Baxter. When he preached in barns or on commons, he gathered eager
thousands around him; and when he came to London, twelve hundred people
would be found gathered together at seven on the dark morning of a winter
working-day, to hear him expound the Word of God. Among these admiring
multitudes Owen had often been discovered;--the most learned of the
Puritans hung for hours, that seemed like moments, upon the lips of this
untutored genius. The king is reported to have asked Owen, on one
occasion, how a learned man like him could go "to hear a tinker prate;"
to which the great theologian answered "May it please your majesty, could
I possess the tinker's abilities for preaching, I would willingly
relinquish all my learning." For some years Bunyan's confinement in the
prison of Bedford had, through the kindness of his good jailer, been
attended with many mitigations; but towards the latter part of it, its
severities had been greatly increased, and Owen used every effort to
engage the interest of his old friend and tutor, Dr Barlow, for his
release. Some of the details of this matter have been questioned by
Southey, and its date is uncertain; but the leading facts seem above
reasonable suspicion, and it is pleasing to know, that after some
perplexing delay, Owen's interposition was successful in obtaining
Bunyan's enlargement.
  During these chequered and anxious years, Owen's untiring pen had been
as active as ever. In 1669 he had published "A brief Vindication of the
Doctrine of the Trinity; as also, of the Person and Satisfaction of
Christ;" a little treatise, containing the condensed substance of his
great controversial work against Biddle and the Continental Socinians,--
the "Vindiciae Evangelicae." There was wisdom in thus supplying the
church with a less controversial manual on those vital questions. Many of
Owen's larger works remind us of some ancient castle, with its embrasures
and port holes, admirably fitting it for the purposes of defense, but in
the same degree rendering it unsuitable as a peaceful habitation. In
little more than forty years after Owen's death, this little work had
passed through seven editions. In 1672 he had published "A Discourse
concerning Evangelical Love, Church Peace and Unity," etc.; a work
combining enlarged and generous sentiment with wise discrimination, and
in which Owen enters at great length into the question respecting the
occasional attendance of Nonconformists on the parish churches,--a
question which found him and Baxter once more ranged on opposite sides.
  And there were other works whose origin dated from this period, in
which we can trace the faithful watchman, piously descrying the coming
danger, or seeking to rear bulwarks against the already swelling tide.
Two of these were precious fragments been off from his great work on the
Epistle to the Hebrews, and enlarged to meet present exigencies. The
first was his "Treatise on the Sabbath;" in which he joined with Baxter,
and all the other great writers among the Puritans, in seeking to
preserve this precious fence, which the goodness of God has drawn around
the vineyard of his church, and which he found assailed on the one hand
by fanatics, who denounced it as a mere ceremonial and carnal observance,
and by the more numerous and noisy disciples of the "Book of Sports," who
hated it for its spirituality. The reader will be struck with the
contrast between the Puritan Sabbath, as it is depicted in its staid and
solemn cheerfulness by a Puritan divine, and as he often beholds it
caricatured by the modern popular writer; and as he finds Owen arguing
with the same classes of antagonists, and answering the same argument and
objections as are rife at the present day, he will be disposed to
subscribe to the theory, that errors have their orbits in which they
move, and that their return may be calculated at a given juncture. The
other work of this class to which we refer was, "The Nature and
Punishment of Apostasy Declared, in an Exposition of Hebrews 6:4-6." It
was emphatically a book for the times; when the multitudes who had merely
played a part in religion in Cromwell's days had long since thrown off
the mask, and taken amends for their restraints in the most shameless
excesses; when to be sternly moral was almost to incur the suspicion of
disloyalty; when to be called a Puritan was, with many, more
discreditable than to be called a debauchee; and when the noon day
licentiousness of Charles' court, descending through the inferior ranks
of life, carried every thing before it but what was rooted and grounded
in a living piety.
  But the greatest work of Owen at this period was one which we leave its
elaborate title to describe,--"A Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit; in
which an account is given of his name, nature, personality, dispensation,
operations, and effects. His whole work in the Old and New Creation is
explained; the doctrine concerning it vindicated from opposition and
reproaches. The nature and necessity also of Gospel holiness, the
difference between grace and morality, or a spiritual life to God in
evangelical obedience and a course of moral virtues, is stated and
explained." The better part of two centuries have elapsed since this work
of Owen's was given to the world, and yet no English work on the same
vital subject has approached it in exhaustive fulness. Wilberforce owns
his obligations to it as one of his great theological textbooks; and
Cecil declares that it had been to him "a treasure-house" of divinity. It
was not merely the two common extremes of error that Owen grappled with
in this masterly treatise,--that of the enthusiasts who talked of the
inward light and of secret revelations, and that of the Socinians who did
not believe that there was any Holy Ghost, and of whose scanty creed it
has been severely said, that it is not likely often to become the faith
of men of genius. There was a third class of waters at that time, from
whom Owen apprehended more danger than either,--men who, in their
preaching, dwelt much upon the credentials of the Bible, but little upon
its truths,--who would have defended even the doctrine of the Holy Spirit
as an article of their creed, and at the same time would have derided all
reference to the actual work of divine grace upon a human heart as the
"weak imagination of distempered minds." Much of Owen's treatise has
reference to these accommodating and courtly divines, and is, in fact, a
vindication of the reality of the spiritual life. He is not always able
to repress his satire against these writers. Some of them had complained
that they were reproached as "rational divines;" to which he replied,
that if they were so reproached, it was, so far as he could discern, as
Jerome was beaten by an angel for being a Ciceronian (in the judgment of
some), very undeservedly.
  Few glimpses are given us of Owen's domestic history; but it appears
that, in January 1676, he was bereaved of his first wife. One of his
early biographers says that she "was an excellent and comely person, very
affectionate towards him, and met with suitable returns." He remained a
widower for about eighteen months, when he married a lady of the name of
Michael, the daughter of a family of rank in Dorsetshire, and the widow
of Thomas D'Oyley, Esq. of Chiselhampton, near Stadham. This lady brought
Dr Owen a considerable fortune; which, with his own property, and a
legacy that we left him about the same time by his cousin, Martyn Owen,
made his condition easy, and even affluent, so that he was able to keep a
carriage during his remaining years. On all which Anthony Wood remarks,
with monkish spite, that "Owen took all occasions to enjoy the
comfortable importances of this life."
  Many symptoms were now beginning to make it evident that Owen's public
career was drawing to a close. The excitements and anxieties of a most
eventful life, and the fatigues of severe study, were making themselves
visible in more than one disease. Asthma afflicted him with such severity
as often to unfit him for preaching; and stone, the frequent and
agonizing disease of studious men in those times, gave no uncertain signs
of its presence. In these circumstances it became necessary to obtain
assistants, both in the pastorate of the church in Leaderthall street,
and also to act as his amanuenses in preparing his remaining works for
the press among those who, for brief periods, were thus connected with
him, we meet with the names of two persons of rather remarkable history,-
-Robert Ferguson, who, beginning his life as a minister, became at length
a political intriguer and pamphleteer, and, after undertaking some
perilous adventures in the cause of William, ultimately became a
Jacobite, and ended his eccentric and agitated course with more of
notoriety than of honour; and Alexander Shields, a Scotch man, whose
antipathy to Prelacy was surpassed by his piety, and whose name Scottish
Presbyterians still venerate as the author of the "Hind let Loose." These
two probably laboured with Owen principally in the capacity of
amanuenses; but the amiable and excellent David Clarkson shared with him
the duties of the pastorate, and rejoiced to divide the anxieties and
toils, and soothe the declining years, of the illustrious Puritan.
Clarkson evidently won the generous admiration of Baxter; and Dr Bates
beautifully spoke of him as "a real saint, in whom the living spring of
grace in his heart diffused itself in the veins of his conversation. His
life was a silent repetition of his holy discourses."
  With the help of his amanuenses, Owen completed and published, in 1677,
"The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, through the Imputation of the
Righteousness of Christ, Explained, Confirmed, and Vindicated,"--a work
in which all the ratiocinative strength and command of resources of his
best controversial days appear undiminished. We concur, indeed, to a
certain extent, in the censure which has been charged against that part
of it which treats of the nature of justifying faith, as tending to
perplex a subject whose very simplicity makes explanation equally
impossible and unnecessary. The censure, however, ought not to be
confined to Owen; for on the subject of faith the Puritan divines, with
their scholastic distinctions, were far inferior to the theologians of
the Reformation. The great difficulty about faith is not a metaphysical
but a moral one; and there is truth in the observation, that elaborate
attempts to describe it are like handling a beautiful transparency, whose
lustre disappears whensoever it is touched.
  This great work was probably the ripened fruit of many years of thought
But as we examine the productions of Owen during the few remaining years
of his life, it is easy to discover that they belonged principally to
three classes, and two of those especially, owed their origin to events
that were occurring around him, and to dangerous tendencies which his
ever-vigilant eye was quick to discover. First, there were his various
writings against Popery, such as his "Church of Rome no Safe Guide;" his
"Brief and Impartial Account of the Protestant Religion;" and, in some
degree also, his "Humble Testimony to the Goodness of God in his Dealing
with Sinful Churches and Nations." In all of these we hear the watchman
answering, "What of the night?" He is alive to the sympathies of Charles
and his court with Popery,--to the readiness of not a few in the Church
of England to move in the direction of Rome,--to the avowed so Romanism
of the Duke of York, and his possible succession to the throne,--and to
the dangers to religion, to liberty, and to every thing meet dear to man,
which these lowering evils portended. The wisdom and foresight of Dr Owen
in many parts of these writings, which we now read in the light of
subsequent events, strike us with surprise, often with admiration.
  In addition to beholding the Protestants duly inspirited and alarmed on
the subject of Popery, Owen longed to see all alienations and divisions
among them dispelled, and the various parts of the great Protestant
community so united and mutually confiding, as to be prepared to resist
their common adversary. Not that he was the less convinced of the
necessity and duty of separation from the Episcopal Church; for in a
controversy with Stillingfleet, into which an ungenerous assault of that
able Churchman drew him, he had produced one of his best defenses of
Nonconformity; but he felt a growing desire, both to see the real
differences between the venous branches of the Nonconformist family
reduced to their true magnitude, and, in spite of the differences that
might, after all, remain, to behold them banded together in mutual
confidence and united action. His work on "Union among Protestants" was
written with this wise and generous design; and this, we are persuaded,
was one of the chief ends contemplated by another work,--his "Inquiry
into the Origin, Nature, Institution, Power, Order, and Communion of
Evangelical Churches" We are quite aware that some have represented this
highly valuable treatise as a recantation of Dr Owen's views on church
polity, and a return to those Presbyterian sentiments with which he had
entered on his public life; but an examination of the treatise, we think,
will make it evident that this was not in Owen's thoughts, and that his
aim was rather to show how far he could come to meet the moderate
Presbyterian, and to lay down a platform on which united action, in those
times of trouble and of perils, which all division aggravated, could
consistently take place. Accordingly we find him, while admirably
describing the true nature of a Gospel church, as a society of professed
believers, and refusing to any man or body of men "all power of
legislation in or over the church," avowing it as his conviction, that
"the order of the officers which was so early in the primitive church,--
viz. of one pastor or bishop in one church, assisted in rule and all holy
ministrations with many elders, teaching or ruling only,--does not so
overthrow church order as to render its rule or discipline useless." And
in reference to the communion of churches, while repudiating every thing
like authoritative interference and dictation on the part of any church
or assembly of rulers, he holds that "no church is so independent that it
can always, and in all cases, observe the duties it owes to the Lord
Christ and the church catholic, by all those powers which it is able to
act in itself distinctly, without conjunction of others; and the church
which conies its duty to the acts of its own assemblies, cuts itself off
from the external communion of the church catholic." He holds that "a
synod convened in the name of Christ, by the voluntary consent of several
churches concerned in mutual communion, may declare and determine of the
mind of the Holy Ghost in Scripture, and decree the observation of things
true and necessary, because revealed and appointed in the Scripture." And
farther, that "if it be reported or known, by credible testimony, that
any church has admitted into the exercise of divine worship any thing
superstitious or vain, or if the members of it walk, like those described
by the apostle, Phil.3:18,19, unto the dishonour of the Gospel and of the
ways of Christ, the church itself not endeavouring its own reformation
and repentance, other churches walking in communion therewith, by virtue
of their common interest in the glory of Christ and honour of the Gospel,
after more private ways for its reduction, as opportunity and duty may
suggest unto their elders, ought to assemble in a synod for advice,
either as to the use of farther means for the recovery of such a church,
or to withhold communion from it in case of obstinacy in its evil ways"
We do not attempt to measure the distance between these principles and
the Presbyterianism of Owen's day, or the diminished distance between
them and the modified Presbyterianism of our own; but we state them, with
one of Owen's oldest biographers, as an evidence of his "healing temper
in this matter;" and we even venture to suggest whether, at some future
period of increased spirituality and external danger, they may not form
the basis of a stable and honorable union among the two great evangelical
sections of modern Nonconformists
  But besides the outward dangers to Protestantism, which made Owen so
eager for union among his friends, we discover another and more
interesting explanation still in the increased occupation of his mind
with the great central truths of the Gospel, and his growing delight in
them. The minor distinctions among Christians come to be seen by us in
their modified proportions, when we have taken our place within the inner
circle of those great truths which constitute the peculiar glory and
power of Christianity; and this inner and more radiant circle formed more
and more the home of Dr Owen's heart. This is evident from the three
great doctrinal and devotional works which were produced by him at this
period, and which we have yet to name.
  First, there appeared his "Christologia, or Declaration of the Glorious
Mystery of the Person of Christ, God and man, with the infinite wisdom,
love, and power of God in the constitution thereof. As also, of the
grounds and reasons of his incarnation; the nature of his ministry in
heaven; the present state of the church above thereon; and the use of his
person in religion," etc. The root from which the whole discourse
springs, is the memorable declaration of our Lord to Peter, Matt.16:18,
"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will
build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it:"--a
declaration in which Owen finds three great truths, whose illustration
forms the substance of the volume;-- that the person of Christ is the
foundation of his church; that opposition will be made by the powers of
earth and hell to the church, as built on the person of Christ; and that
the church built on the person of Christ shall never be separated from it
or destroyed. It is easy to see what a rich field of doctrinal statement,
learned illustration, and devout reflection, is opened for Owen's mind in
these themes; and he expatiates in it with all the delight of a mind
accustomed to high and heavenly communion. It is pleasing to mark how he
casts off the cumbrous armour of a sometimes too scholastic style, that
had kept him down in some of his earlier treatises; and, rising from the
simply didactic into the devotional, aims to catch joyful glimpses of the
glory that is soon to be revealed.
Then followed his heart-searching, heart-inspiring treatise on "The Grace
and Duty of being Spiritually-minded," first preached to his own heart,
and then to a private congregation; and which reveals to us the almost
untouched and untrodden eminences on which Owen walked in the last years
of his pilgrimage,--eminences for reaching which, it has been said by one
of the humblest and holiest of men of our own times, "it would almost
appear indispensable that the spiritual life should be nourished in
solitude; and that, afar from the din, and the broil, and the tumult of
ordinary life, the candidate for heaven should give himself up to the
discipline of prayer and of constant watchfulness."
  The last production of Owen's pen was his "Meditations and Discourses
on the glory of Christ" It embodies the holy musings of his latest days,
and in many parts of it seems actually to echo the presses of the
heavenly worshippers. We may apply to Owen's meditations, as recorded in
this book, the words of Bunyan in reference to his pilgrim,--"Drawing
near to the city, he had yet a more perfect view thereof." It is a
striking circumstance, that each of the three great Puritan divines wrote
a treatise on the subject of heaven, and that each had his own distinct
aspect in which he delighted to view it. To the mind of Baxter, the most
prominent idea of heaven was that of rest; and who can wonder, when it is
remembered that his earthly life was little else than one prolonged
disease?--to the mind of Howe, ever aspiring after a purer state of
being, the favourite conception of heaven was that of holy happiness;--
while to the mind of Owen, heaven's glory was regarded as consisting in
the unveiled manifestation of Christ. The conceptions, though varied, are
all true; and Christ, fully seen and perfectly enjoyed, will secure all
the others. Let us now trace the few remaining steps that conducted Owen
into the midst of this exceeding weight of glory.
  We have already mentioned Lord Wharton, as one of those noblemen who
continued their kindness to the Nonconformists in the midst of all their
troubles. His country residence at Woburn, in Buckinghamshire, afforded a
frequent asylum to the persecuted ministers; just as we find the castles
of Mornay and De Plessis in France opened by their noble owners as a
refuge to the Huguenots.
  During his growing infirmities, Owen was invited to Woburn, to try the
effect of change of air; and also that others of his persecuted brethren,
meeting him in this safe retreat, might enjoy the benefit of united
counsel and devotion. It appears that while here his infirmities
increased upon him, and that he was unable to return to his flock in
London at the time that he had hoped; and a letter written to them from
this place, gives us so vivid a reflection of the anxieties of a period
of persecution, and so interesting a specimen of Owens fidelity and
affection to his people, in the present experience of suffering, and in
the dread of more, that we have peculiar delight in interweaving it with
our narrative:--
[begin of letter]
  "Beloved In The Lord,--Mercy, grace, and peace be multiplied to you
from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, by the communication
of the Holy Ghost. I thought and hoped that by this time I might have
been present with you, according to my desire and resolution; but it has
pleased our holy gracious Father otherwise to dispose of me, at least for
a season. The continuance of my painful infirmities, and the increase of
my weaknesses, will not allow me at present to hope that I should be able
to bear the journey. How great an exercise this is to me, considering the
season, he knows, to whose will I would in all things cheerfully submit
myself. But although I am absent from you in body, I am in mind,
affection, and spirit, present with you, and in your assemblies; for I
hope you will be found my crown and rejoicing in the day of the Lord; and
my prayer for you night and day is, that you may stand fast in the whole
will of God, and maintain the beginning of your confidence without
wavering, firm unto the end. I know it is needless for me, at this
distance, to write to you about what concerns you in point of duty at
this season, that work being well supplied by my brother in the ministry;
you will give me leave, out of my abundant affections towards you, to
bring some few things to your remembrance, as my weakness will permit.
  "In the first place, I pray God it may be rooted and fixed in our
minds, that the shame and loss we may undergo for the sake of Christ and
the profession of the Gospel is the greatest honour which in this life we
can be made partakers of. So it was esteemed by the apostles,--they
rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name's
sake. It is a privilege superadded to the grace of faith, which all are
not made partakers of. Hence it is reckoned to the Philippians in a
peculiar manner, that it was given to them, not only to believe in
Christ, but also to suffer for him,--that it is far more honorable to
suffer with Christ than to reign with the greatest of his enemies. If
this be fixed by faith in our minds, it will tend greatly to our
encouragement. I mention these things only, as knowing that they are more
at large pressed on you.
  "The next thing I would recommend to you at this season, is the
increase of mutual love among yourselves; for every trial of our faith
towards our Lord Jesus Christ is also a trial of our love towards the
brethren. This is that which the Lord Christ expects from us, namely,
that when the hatred of the world does openly manifest and act itself
against us all, we should evidence an active love among ourselves. If
there have been any decays, any coldness herein, if they are not
recovered and healed in such a season, it can never be expected. I pray
God, therefore, that your mutual love may abound more and more in all the
effects and fruits of it towards the whole society, and every member
thereof. You may justly measure the fruit of your present trial by the
increase of this grace among you; in particular, have a due regard to the
weak and the tempted, that that which is lame may not be turned out of
the way, but rather let it be healed.
  "Furthermore, brethren, I beseech you, hear a word of advice in case
the persecution increases,--which it is like to do for a season. I could
wish that, because you have no ruling elders, and your teachers cannot
walk about publicly with safety, that you would appoint some among
yourselves, who may continually, as their occasions will admit, go up and
down, from house to house, and apply themselves peculiarly to the weak,
the tempted, the fearful,--those that are ready to despond or to halt,
and to encourage them in the Lord. Choose out those to this end who are
endued with a spirit of courage and fortitude; and let them know that
they are happy whom Christ will honour with this blessed work. And I
desire the persons may be of this number who are faithful men, and know
the state of the church; by this means you will know what is the frame of
the members of the church, which will be a great direction to you, even
in your prayers. Watch, now, brethren, that, if it be the will of God,
not one soul may be lost from under your care. Let no one be overlooked
or neglected; consider all their conditions, and apply yourselves to all
their circumstances
  Finally, brethren, that I be not at present farther troublesome to you,
examine yourselves as to your spiritual benefit which you have received,
or do receive, by your present fears and dangers, which will alone give
you the true measure of your condition; for if this tends to the exercise
of your faith, and love, and holiness, if this increases your valuation
of the privileges of the Gospel, it will be an undoubted token of the
blessed issue which the Lord Christ will give unto your troubles. Pray
for me, as you do; and do it the rather, that, if it be the will of God,
I may be restored to you,--and if not, that a blessed enhance may be
given to me into the kingdom of God and glory. Salute all the church in
my name. I take the boldness in the Lord to subscribe myself your
unworthy pastor, and your servant for Jesus' sake,
J. Owen.
  "P.S. I humbly desire you would in your prayers remember the family
where I am, from whom I have received, and do receive, great Christian
kindness. I may say, as the apostle of Onesiphorus, 'The Lord give to
them that they may find mercy of the Lord in that day, for they have
often refreshed me in my great distress.'"
[end of letter]

  His infirmities increasing, he soon after removed from London to
Kensington, for country air; occasionally, however, he was able still to
visit London; and an incident which happened to him on one of these
visits presents us with another picture of the times. As he was driving
along the Strand, his carriage was stopped by two informers, and his
horses seized. Greater violence would immediately have followed, had it
not been that Sir Edmund Godfrey, a justice of the peace, was passing at
the time, and seeing a mob collected round the carriage, asked what was
the matter? On ascertaining the circumstances, he ordered the informers,
with Dr Owen, to meet him at the house of another justice of the peace on
an appointed day. When the day came, it was found that the informers had
acted so irregularly, that they were not only disappointed of their base
reward, but severely reprimanded and dismissed. Thus once more did Owen
escape as a bird from the snare of the fowler.
  Retiring still farther from the scenes of public life, Owen soon after
took up his abode in the quiet village of Ealing, where he had a house of
his own and some property. Only once again did persecution hover over
him, and threaten to disturb the sacredness of his declining days, by
seeking to involve him and some other of the Nonconformists in the Rye
House plot; but the charge was too bold to be believed, and God was
about, ere long, to remove him from the reach of all these evils, and to
hide him in his pavilion, from the pride of man and from the strife of
tongues. Anthony Wood has said of Owen that "he did very unwillingly lay
down his head and die," but how different was the spectacle of moral
sublimity presented to the eyes of those who were actual witnesses of the
last days of the magnanimous and heavenly-minded Puritan! In one of his
latest writings, when referring to the near approach of the daily
expected and earnestly desired hour of his discharge from all farther
serve in this world, he had said, "In the continual prospect hereof do I
yet live, and rejoice; which, among other advantages unspeakable, has
already given me an inconcernment in those oppositions which the passions
or interests of men engage them in, of a very near alliance unto, and
scarce distinguishable from, that which the grave will afford." And all
the exercises of his deathbed were the prolonged and brightening
experience of what he here describes. In a letter to his beloved friend
Charles Fleetwood, on the day before his death, he thus beautifully
expresses his Christian affection, and his good hope through grace:--
[begin of letter]
  "Dear Sir,--Although I am not able to write one word myself, yet I am
very desirous to speak one word more to you in this world, and do it by
the hand of my wife. The continuance of your entire kindness, knowing
what it is accompanied withal, is not only greatly valued by me, but will
be a refreshment to me, as it is, even in my dying hour. I am going to
Him whom my soul has loved, or rather who has loved me with an
everlasting love,--which is the whole ground of all my consolation. The
passage is very irksome and wearisome, through strong pains of various
sorts, which are all issued in an intermitting fever. All things were
provided to carry me to London today, according to the advice of my
physicians; but we are all disappointed by my utter disability to
undertake the journey. I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm;
but whilst the great Pilot is in it, the loss of a poor under-rower will
be inconsiderable. Live, and pray, and hope, and wait patiently, and do
not despond; the promise stands invincible, that He will never leave us,
nor forsake us. I am greatly afflicted at the distempers of your dear
lady; the good Lord stand by her, and support and deliver her. My
affectionate respects to her, and the rest of your relations, who are so
dear to me in the Lord. Remember your dying friend with all fervency. I
rest upon it that you do so, and am yours entirely,
J. Owen."
[end of letter]
  The first sheet of his "Meditations on the Glory of Christ" had passed
through the press under the superintendence of the Rev. William Payne, a
Dissenting minister at Saffron Waldon, in Essex; and on that person
calling on him to inform him of the circumstance on the morning of the
day he died, he exclaimed, with uplifted hands, and eyes looking upwards,
"I am glad to hear it; but, 0 brother Payne! the long wished-for day is
come at last, in which I shall see that glory in another manner than I
have ever done, or was capable of doing, in this world." Still it was no
easy thing for that robust frame to be broken to pieces, and to let the
struggling spirit go free. His physicians, Dr Cox and Sir Edmund King,
remarked on the unusual strength of that earthly house which was about to
be dissolved; while his more constant attendants on that consecrated hour
were awe-struck by the mastery which his mighty and heaven-supported
spirit maintained over his physical agonies "In respect of sicknesses,
very long, languishing, and often sharp and violent, like the blows of
inevitable death, yet was he both calm and submit under all." At length
the struggle ceased; and with eyes and hands uplifted, as if his last act
was devotion, the spirit of Owen passed in silence into the world of
glory. It happened on the 24th of August 1683, the anniversary of St.
Bartholomew's Day;--a day memorable in the annals of the Church of
Christ, as that in which the two thousand Nonconformist confessors had
exposed themselves to poverty and persecution at the call of conscience,
and in which heaven's gates had been opened wide to receive the martyred
Protestants of France. Eleven days afterwards, a long and mournful
procession, composed of more than sixty noblemen, in carriages drawn by
six horses each, and of many others in mourning coaches and on horseback,
silently followed the mortal remains of Owen along the streets of London,
and deposited them in Bunhill-fields,--the Puritan necropolis.
  "We have had a light in this candlestick," said the amiable David
Clarkson, on the Sabbath following; "we have had a light in this
candlestick, which did not only enlighten the room, but gave light to
others far and near: but it is put out. We did not sufficiently value it.
I wish I might not say that our sins have put it out. We had a special
honour and ornament, such as other churches would much prize; but the
crown has fallen from our heads,--yea, may I not add, 'Woe unto us, for
we have sinned?'"
  Dr Owen had only reached the confines of old age when he died; but the
wonder is, that a life of such continuous action and severe study had not
sooner burned out the lamp. It may be remarked of him, as Andrew Fuller
used to say of himself, that "he possessed a large portion of being." He
is said to have stooped considerably during the later years of his life;
but when in his full vigour, his person was tall and majestic, while
there was a singular mixture of gravity and sweetness in the expression
of his countenance. His manners were courteous; his familiar
conversation, though never deficient in gravity, was pleasantly seasoned
with wit; and he was admired by his friends for his remarkable command of
temper under the most annoying provocations, and his tranquil magnanimity
in the midst of all the changes of fortune to which, in common with all
his great Puritan contemporaries, he was exposed. "His general frame was
serious, cheerful, and discoursive,-- his expressions savouring nothing
of discontent, much of heaven and love to Christ, and saints, and all
men; which came from him so seriously and spontaneously, as if grace and
nature were in him reconciled, and but one thing." Such is the portrait
of Owen that has descended to us from those who best "knew his manner of
life;" and our regret is all the greater, that we are constrained to
receive the description in this general form, and that biography has
opened to us so few of those glimpses of his domestic and social life
which would have enabled us to "catch the living manners as they rose,"
and to fill up for ourselves the less strongly defined outlines of his
  Our business, however, is more with Dr Owen in his various public
relations, and it seems to be a fit conclusion of this Memoir, that we
should now attempt, in a few closing paragraphs, to express the estimate
which a review of his conduct in these relations warrants us to form of
his character. One of the most natural errors into which a biographer is
in danger of being betrayed, is that of asserting the superiority of the
individual who has been the subject of his memoir to all his
contemporaries; and it would probably require no great stretch of
ingenuity or eloquent advocacy to bring out Dr Owen as at least "primus
inter pares." In finding our way, however, to such conclusions, almost
every thing depends on the particular excellence on which we fix as our
standard of judgment; and we are persuaded that were we allowed to select
a separate excellence in each case our standard, we could bring out each
of the three great Puritans as, in his turn, the greatest. Let impressive
eloquence in the pulpit and ubiquitous activity out of it be the
standard, and all this crowned with successes truly apostolical, and must
not every preacher of his age yield the palm to Richard Baxter? Or let
our task be to search for the man in that age of intellectual giants who
was most at home in the philosophy of Christianity, whose imagination
could bear every subject he touched upwards into the sunlight, and cover
it with the splendours of the firmament, and would we not lay the crown
at the feet of the greatly good John Howe? But let the question be, who
among all the Puritans was the most remarkable for his intimate and
profound acquaintance with the truths of revelations who could shed the
greatest amount of light upon a selected portion of the Word of God,
discovering its hidden riches, unfolding its connections and harmonies,
and bringing the most abstruse doctrines of revelation to bear upon the
conduct and the life
who was the "interpreter, one amongst a thousands" or let other
excellencies that we are about to specify be chosen as the standard, and
will not the name of Dr Owen, in this case, obtain au unhesitating and
unanimous suffrage? Such a mode, therefore, of expressing our estimate is
not only invidious, but almost certain to fail, after all, in conveying a
distinct and accurate conception of the character we commend. We prefer,
therefore, to contemplate Dr Owen in his principal relations and most
prominent mental features, and to paint a portrait without fashioning an
  The first excellence we have to name is one in regard to which, we are
persuaded, the modern popular estimate has fallen considerably below the
truth. We refer to the qualities of Owen as a preacher. No one who is
familiar with his printed sermons, and has marked the rich ore of
theology with which they abound, will refuse to him the praise of a great
sermon-maker; but this gift is not always fold united in the same person
with that other excellence which is equally necessary to constitute the
preacher,--the power, namely, of expressing all the sentiment and feeling
contained in the words by means of the living voice. And the general
impression seems to be, that Dr Owen was deficient in this quality, and
that his involved sentences, though easily overlooked in a composition
read in secret, must, without the accompaniments of a most perfect
delivery, have been fatal to their effect upon a public audience. It is
even supposed that his intellectual habits must have been unfavourable to
his readiness as an orator, and that wile, like Addson, he had abundance
of gold in the bank, he was frequently at a loss for ready money. But
Owen's contemporaries report far differently; and the admiring judgment
of some of them is the more to be relied on, that, as in the case of
Anthony Wood, it was given with a grudge. Their descriptions, indeed,
would lead us to conclude his eloquence was of the persuasive and
insinuating, rather than, like Baxter's, of the impassioned kind,--the
dew, and not the tempest; but in this form of eloquence he appears to
have reached great success. His amiable colleague, Mr Clarkson, speaking
of "the admirable facility with which he could discourse on any subject,"
describes him as "never at a loss for language, and better expressing
himself extempore than others with premeditation;" and retaining this
felicity of diction and mastery of his thoughts "in the presence even of
the highest persons in the nation." We have already had occasion to quote
Wood's representation of Owen's oratory, as "moving and winding the
affections of his auditory almost as he pleased;" and a writer of great
judgment and discrimination, who had often heard Owen preach, speaks of
him as "so great an ornament to the pulpit, that, for matter, manner, and
efficacy on the hearers, he represented indeed an ambassador of the Most
High, a teacher of the oracles of God. His person and deportment were so
genteel and graceful, that rendered him when present as affecting, or
more than his works and fame when absent. This advanced the lustre of his
internal excellencies, by shining through so bright a lantern."
  Indeed, the sermons of Owen and his compeers, not only compel us to
form a high estimate of the preachers, but of the hearers of those times,
who could relish such strong meat, and invite its repetition. And seldom
perhaps on earth has a preacher been called to address more select
audiences than Owen. We do not now refer to the crowding multitudes that
hailed his early ministry at Fordham and Coggeshall, or to those little
secret audiences meeting in upper chambers, to whom truth was whispered
rather than proclaimed, but to those high intellects that were wont to
assemble around him at Oxford, and to those helmed warriors and heroes of
the commonwealth, who, on days of public fasting and thanksgiving, or on
high occasions of state, would stand in groups to hear the great Puritan
discourse. Many of these earnest souls were no sciolists in dignity
themselves, and had first drawn their swords to secure the liberty of
prophesying and uncontrolled freedom of worship.
We should form a very imperfect estimate of the character of Dr Owen, and
of the beneficent influence which he exerted, did we not advert to his
greatness as a man of affairs. In this respect we need have no hesitation
in asserting his superiority to all the Puritans Attached from principle
to that great party whose noble mission it was to assert and to vindicate
the rights of conscience and freedom of worship, he soon rose to be its
chief adviser on all occasions of great practical exigency. He combined
in a remarkable degree that clear perception and firm grasp of great
abstract principles, that quick discernment of character and detection of
hidden motive in others, which acts in some men with all the promptitude
and infallibility of instinct,--that fertility of resources, that
knowledge of the times for vigorous action and of the times in which to
economize strength, which, when found in great prominence and happy
combination in the politician, fit him for the high duties of
statesmanship. He was the man who, by common consent, was called to the
helm in a storm. Baxter was deficient in more than one of those qualities
which are necessary to such a post; while his ardent nature would, on
some occasions, have betrayed him into practical excesses, and at other
times his love of nice and subtle distinction would have kept him
discussing when he should have been acting;--while Howe's elevation above
the affairs of daily life, his love of solitude, which made him almost
wish even to die alone in some unfrequented wood, or on the top of some
far remote mountain, disinclined, if it did not unfit him, for the
conduct of public affairs. But Owen's singular excellence in this respect
was early manifested,--and to no eye sooner than to that of Cromwell. We
have seen him inviting his counsels on the affairs of Dublin University;
taking him with him to Scotland, not only as his chaplain, but as his
adviser in the affairs of that campaign, when he found it more difficult
to manage its theologians than to conquer its armies; and at length
intrusting to him the arduous and almost desperate enterprise of
presiding over Oxford, and raising it from its ruins. And throughout more
than thirty years of the long struggle of the Puritans and
Nonconformists, he was the counsellor and presiding mind, to whom all
looked in the hour of important action and overwhelming difficulty. 
  Some have accused Owen and other Nonconformists of his age as too
political for their office. But who made them such? Was it not the men
who were seeking to wrest from them their dearest civil rights, and to
make it a crime to worship God according to their consciences? With such
base ingenuity of reproach were the Huguenots of France accused of
holding secret meetings, after they had been forbidden to meet in public.
It was no small part of Owen's praise, that he saw and obeyed the
necessity of his position; and that perhaps, of all the Puritans of his
age, he was the most quick to "observe the signs of the times, and to
know what Israel ought to do." This is the estimate we should be disposed
to form from a simple retrospect of the facts of our narrative; but it
appears to have been the judgment which some of the best of Owen's
contemporaries were not slow to express. In that admirable letter to
Baxter from which we have already quoted, referring more particularly to
Owen's vice-chancellorship, the writer says, "And though his years,
piety, principles, and strait discipline, with the interest he adhered
to, affected many of the heads and students with contempt, envy, and
enmity at the first; his personal worth, obliging deportment, and
dexterity in affairs that concerned him in that station, so mastered all,
that the university grew not only content with, but proud of such a
vice-chancellor. And, indeed, such were his temper and accomplishments,
that whatever station or sort of men his lot, choice, or interest, should
place him in or among, it were no small wonder that he were not
uppermost:-- that was his proper sphere, which those with whom he was
concerned generally courted him into, and few envied or rivalled."
  But the aspect in which we most frequently think of Owen, and from
which our highest estimate of him is formed, is that of a theological
writer. Even the mere material bulk of his works fills us with surprise;
and when we consider the intensely active life which Owen led, their
production strikes us as almost incredible. In Russell's editions
together with the edition of his "Exposition" by Wright, his works fill
no fewer than twenty-eight goodly octave volumes, though we almost
sympathize with the feeling that the folio form, in which many of them
originally appeared, more fitly represents their intellectual stature.
"Hew down the pyramids," says Sir James Stephen, with a feeling which
every lover of the old divinity will understand,--"Hew down the pyramids
into a range of streets! divide Niagara into a succession of water
privileges!--but let not the spirits of the mighty dead be thus evoked
from their majestic shrines to animate the dwarfish structures of our
bookselling generation." 
  It is only, however, when we have acquired some considerable
familiarity with the contents of these volumes, and when we remember that
on almost every one of the great controversies,--such as the Armenian,
the Socinian, the Popish, and the Episcopalian,--he has produced works
which, after the lapse of nearly two centuries, are still regarded by
unanimous consent as masterpieces on the themes on which they treat, that
we feel unhesitating confidence in placing the name of Owen among the
first names of that age of amazing intellectual achievement. In some of
his controversies he had to do with men of inferior ability, of whom it
might be said, as of some of Fuller's opponents, that "they scarcely
served him for a breakfast;" but in other controversies, such as that
with Goodwin on the perseverance of the saints, he was called to grapple
with some of the best and most accomplished men of his age. But he never
quailed before any opponent. More than one of his works put an end to the
controversy by driving his adversaries to despair; and only once--viz.,
in his rash encounter with Walton--did he retire undeniably vanquished
from the field. It is unnecessary to repeat observations that have been
made in the narrative on Owen's various works; but this seems to be the
place at which to indicate what seem to have been the most distinguishing
qualities of Owen as a theological writer. 
  Perhaps no better word could be found to express one of the most
striking characteristics of Owen, than that which Mackintosh has used to
describe the writings of Bentham,--exhaustiveness. He goes through his
subject "in the length thereof, and in the breadth thereof." It was his
custom to read all the works that had been written on his particular
subject,--especially the writings of opponents,--and then to path
deliberately from point to point of his theme, and bring the whole
concentrated light of Scripture to bear upon its elucidation and
establishment. He leaves nothing to be added by one who shall follow in
the same path, not even little gleanings at the corners of the field.--We
venture to describe another feature of Owen's works by the phrase,
Theological conservatism. In an age remarkable for its intellectual
excitement, which gave birth to all manner of extravagances in opinion,
like the ocean in a storm, bringing to the surface monsters, and hydras,
and chimeras dire, and then producing in due season a reaction into the
shallows of Rationalism, Owen displayed no disposition to change. There
is no writer in whose opinions throughout life there is more of
consistency and unity. There is everywhere visible strong intellect and
profound thought; but it is intellect, not sporting itself with
novelties, and expending itself in presumptuous speculation, but
reasoning out and defending what apostles taught, and feeling that there
is enough in this to fill an angel's grasp. Various causes combined to
work out this quality in Owen, especially his profound reverence for the
authority of Scripture, leading him to travel over its ample field, but
restraining him from passing beyond it; the influence of the truth upon
his own heart, as a living power writing its divine witness within him;
and also his vast learning, which enabled him to trace opinions to their
source, and to detect in that which the ignorant and half-learned looked
upon as a dazzling discovery, the resurrection of an exploded error,
whose only novelty was in its name.
  Allied to this, and in part accounting for it, was what we would style
the devout Calvinism of Owen's cast of thought. Baxter and he held
substantially the same truths, their views, even when they seemed the
most divergent, differing in form and complexion more than in substance;
but still it is evident that the two great men had each his distinct and
favourite standing-point. With Baxter, the initial thought was man in
need of a great restorative system; and this led him outwards and
upwards, from step to step of the Christian salvation. The initial
thought with Owen was God in the past eternity devising a scheme of
salvation through a Mediator; which he unfolded in its wondrous
arrangements and provisions from age to age of the world, and whose
glorious results were to continue to be enjoyed for ever and ever. This
gave a comprehensiveness and an elevation to Owen's whole theology, and
accounts in part for the fact that Baxter seems greatest when bearing
upon the duties of the sinner, and calling him to repentance,--"now or
never;" while Owen comes forth in his greatest strength when instructing
and building up those who have already believed.
  And this suggests another of his most remarkable excellencies,--the
power, namely, of bringing the various doctrines of the Christian system,
even the most abstruse, to bear, in the form of motive and consolation,
upon the affections and active powers of our human nature. Great as Owen
is when we see him as the gigantic polemic, putting forth his
intellectual might in "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered
unto the saints;" behave not seen him in all his greatness until, in such
practical works as his treatise on the "Mortification of Sin in
Believers," he brings the truth into contacts not so much with the errors
of the heretic, as with the corruption and deceitfulness of the human
heart. Then we have hesitated which most to admire,--his intimate
knowledge of the Word of God, or his profound acquaintance with the heart
of man, or the skill with which he brings the one into vigorous and
healing action upon the other; while all his great qualities, as the
expositor of the Scriptures, as the defender of the faith, as the
profound theologian, and as the wise practical instructor, have seemed to
manifest themselves at once in single and united greatness, in that noble
intellectual pyramid, his "Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews."
  Yet some of the excellencies that we have named stand closely connected
with Owen's chief defect,--which is to be found in his manner, rather
than in his matter. His wish to exhaust his particular theme has made him
say every thing on a subject that could be said, and betrayed him into an
occasional prolixity and discursiveness, the absence of which would have
made his works far more popular, and far more useful. He wants
perspective in composition, and does not seem to know the secret of
touching on themes, without labouriously handling them. This, with an
occasionally involved and parenthetical style, has formed, as we
conceive, the chief barrier to Owen's yet wider acceptance. The sentiment
of Dr Vaughan is a just one, that had the fluency and elegance of Bates
been united to the massive thoughts of Owen, we should have had a near
approach to the perfect theological writer. But let us admit this
occasional defect; and let us even farther concede, that in other
qualities he is not equal to others of the Puritans,--that he is
surpassed by Biter in point and energy, by Flavel in tenderness, by Howe
in majesty, by both the Henries in proverb and epigram, by Bates in
beautiful similitudes;--still, where shall we find, in the theological
voters of his own or of any age, so much of the accumulated treasures of
a sanctified learning,--of the mind of God clearly elucidated and
invincibly defended,--of profound and massive thought? His works are like
a soil which is literally impregnated with gold, and in which burnished
masses of the virgin ore are sure to reward him who patiently labours in
  John Owen belonged to a class of men who have risen from age to age in
the church, to represent great principles, and to revive in the church
the life of God. The supreme authority of the Scriptures in all matters
of religion,--the headship of Christ,--the rights of conscience,--
religion as a thing of spirit, and not of form, resulting from the
personal belief of certain revealed truths, and infallibly manifesting
itself in a holy life,--the church as a society distinct from the world;-
-these principles, often contended for in flames and blood, were the
essence of that Puritanism which found one of its noblest examples in
Owen. Puritanism, it has been finely said, was the feeling of which
Protestantism was the argument. But even then, it was an old spirit under
a new name, which, heaven-enkindled, has ever borne the two marks of its
celestial origin, in blessing the world and being persecuted by it. It
was the spirit which breathed in the collards of Germany; in the Hussites
of Bohemia,--in those saints, who
      "On the Alpine mountains cold,
      Kept God's truth so pure of old,
      When all our fathers worshipp'd stocks and stones;"
in the Huguenots of France; and in the stern Scottish Covenanters;--and
which God has sometimes sent down since, like a benignant angel, when the
church at any time has begun to stagnate in a cold orthodoxy, to trouble
the waters of the sanctuary, that the lame might be healed. It is a
spirit which the inert orthodoxy and the superficial evangelism of the
church even now greatly needs to have breathed into it from heaven. And
the labourious and prayerful study of the writings of the Puritans might
do much to restore it. Only let the same truths be believed with the same
faith, and they will produce the same men, and accomplish the same
intellectual and moral miracles. A due appreciation of the most pressing
wants of our age, and a timely discernment of its most serious perils,
would draw from us the prayer which is said to have once escaped the lips
even of the cold and calculating Erasmus,--"O, sit anima mea cum
Puritanis Anglicanis!"

Appendix to the Life of Dr Owen

1. Epitaph on his Monument

Epitaph inscribed on the Monument of Dr Owen in Bunhill-fields

  John Owen, D.D., born in the county of Oxford, the son of an eminent
minister, himself more eminent, and worthy to be enrolled among the first
divines of the age; furnished with human literature in all its kinds, and
in its highest degrees, he called forth all his knowledge in an orderly
train to serve the interests of religion, and minister in the sanctuary
of his God. In divinity, practice, polemic, and casuistical, he excelled
others, and was in all equal to himself. The Arminian, Socinian, and
Popish errors, those hydras, whose contaminated breath and deadly poison
infested the church, he, with more than Herculean labour, repulsed,
vanquished, and destroyed. The whole economy of redeeming grace, revealed
and applied by the Holy Spirit, he deeply investigated, and communicated
to others, having first felt its divine energy, according to its draught
in the holy Scriptures, transfused into his own bosom. Superior to all
terrene pursuits, he constantly cherished, and largely experienced, that
blissful communion with Deity he so admirable describes in his writings.
While on the road to heaven, his elevated mind almost comprehended its
full glories and joys. When he was consulted on cases of conscience, his
resolutions contained the wisdom of an oracle. He was a scribe every way
instructed in the mysteries of the kingdom of God. In conversation he
held up to many, in his public discourses to more, in his publications
from the press to all, who were set out for the celestial Zion, the
effulgent lamp of evangelical truth, to guide their steps to immortal
glory. While he was thus diffusing his divine light, with his own inward
sensations, and the observations of his afflicted friends, his earthly
tabernacle gradually decayed, till at length his deeply-sanctified soul,
longing for the fruition of its God, quitted the body. In younger age, a
most comely and majestic form; but in the latter stages of life,
depressed by constant infirmities, emaciated with frequent diseases, and
above all crushed under the weight of intense and unremitting studies, it
became an incommodious mansion for the vigorous exertions of the spirit
in the service of its God. He left the world on a day dreadful to the
church by the cruelties of men, but blissful to himself by the plaudits
of his God, August 24, 1683, aged 67.

2. Some letters

The following Letters embrace all the Correspondence of Dr Owen which has
been preserved, and is of any importance

To M. Du Moulin

Sir,-- I have received your strictures upon our Confession, wherein you
charge it with palpable contradiction, nonsense, enthusiasm, and false
doctrine,--that is, all the evils that can be crowded into such a
writing; and I understand, by another letter since, that you have sent
the same paper to others,--which is the sole cause of the return which I
now make to you; and I beg your pardon in telling you, that all your
instances are your own mistakes, or the mistakes of your friend, as I
shall briefly manifest to you.
  First, you say there is a plain contradiction between chap. 3 art. 6,
and chap. 30 art. 2. In the first place it is said, "None but the elect
are redeemed;" but in the other it is said, "The sacrament is a memorial
of the one offering of Christ upon the cross for all." I do admire to
find this charged by you as a contradiction; for you know full well that
all our divines who maintain that the elect only were redeemed
effectually by Christ, do yet grant that Christ died for all, in the
Scripture sense of the word,--that is, some of all sorts,--and never
dreamt of any contradiction in their assertion. But your mistake is
worse; for in chap. 30 art. 2, which you refer to, there is not one word
mentioned of Christ's dying for all; but that the sacrifice which he
offered was offered once for all,--which is the expression of the
apostle, to intimate that it was but once offered, in opposition to the
frequent repetitions of the sacrifices of the Jews. And pray, if you go
on in your translation, do not fall into a mistake upon it; for in the
very close of the article it is said, "That Christ's only sacrifice was a
propitiation for the sins of all the elect." The words you urge out of 2
Pet.2:1, are not in the text: they are, by your quotation, "Denied him
that had redeemed them;" but it is, "Denied the sovereign Lord which had
bought them;"--which words have quite another sense.
  Something you quote out of chap. 6 art. 6, where I think you suppose we
do not distinguish between the "reatus" and "macula" of sin; and do think
that we grant the defilement of Adam's person, and consequently of all
intermediate propagations, to be imputed unto us. Pray, sir, give me
leave to say, that I cannot but think your mind was employed about other
things when you dreamt of our being guilty of such a folly and madness;
neither is there any one word in the Confession which gives countenance
unto it. If you would throw away so much time as to read any part of my
late discourse about justification, it is not unlikely but that you would
see something of the nature of the guilt of sin, and the imputation of
it, which may give you satisfaction.
  In your next instance, which you refer unto chap. 19 art. 3, by some
mistake (there being nothing to the purpose in that place), you say, "It
is presupposed that some who have attained age may be elected, and yet
have not the knowledge of Jesus Christ; which is a pure enthusiasm, and
is contrary to chap. 20 art. 2. "Why, sir! that many who are eternally
elected, and yet for some season--some less, some longer--do live without
the knowledge of Christ, until they are converted by the Word and Spirit,
is not an enthusiasm; but your exception is contrary to the whole
Scripture, contrary to the experience of all days and ages, overthrows
the work of the ministry, and is so absurd to sense, and reason, and
daily experience, that I know not what to say to it; only, I confess that
if, with some of the Armenians, you do not believe that any are elected
from eternity, or before they do actually believe, something may be
spoken to countenance your exception: but that we cannot regard, for it
was our design to oppose all their errors.
  Your next instance is a plain charge of false doctrine, taken out of
chap. 11 art. 1, speaking, as you say, of the active obedience of Christ
imputed to us, which is contrary to art. 3, where it is said that Christ
acquits by his obedience in death, and not by his fulfilling of the law.
Sir, you still give me cause of some new admiration in all these
objections, and I fear you make use of some corrupt copy of our
Confession;--for we say not, as you allege, that Christ by his obedience
in death did acquit us, and not by his fulfilling of the law; but we say
that Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of
all those who are justified,--which comprehends both his active and
passive righteousness. But you add a reason, whereby you design to
disprove this doctrine of our concerning the imputation of the active
righteousness of Christ unto our justification. Why, you say, it is
contrary to reason; for that we are freed from satisfying God's justice
by being punished by death, but not from the fulfilling of the law:
therefore the fulfilling of the law by Christ is no satisfaction for us,-
-we are not freed from active obedience, but from passive obedience.
Pray, sir, do not mistake that such mistaken seasonings can give us any
occasion to change our judgments in an article of truth of this
importance. When you shall have been pleased to read my book of
Justification, and have answered solidly what I have written upon this
subject, I will tell you more of my mind. In the meantime I tell you, we
are by the death of Christ freed from all sufferings as they are purely
penal, and the effect of the curse, though they spring out of that root;
only, sir, you and I know full well that we are not freed from pains,
afflictions, and death itself,--which had never been, had they not
proceeded from the curse of the law. And so, sir, by the obedience of
Christ we are freed from obedience to the law, as to justification by the
works thereof. We are no more obliged to obey the law in order to
justification than we are obliged to undergo the penalties of the law to
answer its curse. But these things have been fully debated elsewhere.
  In the last place, your friend wishes it could be avoided, and declined
to speak any thing about universal grace, for that it would raise some or
most divines against it. I judge myself beholden to your friend for the
advice, which I presume he judges to be good and wholesome; but I beg
your pardon that I cannot comply with it, although I shall not reflect
with any severity upon them who are of another judgment; and, to tell you
the truth, the immethodical new method introduced to give countenance to
universal grace, is, in my judgment, suited to draw us off from all due
conceptions concerning the grace of God in Jesus Christ; which I shall
not now stay to demonstrate, though I will not decline the undertaking of
it, if God gives me strength, at any time. And I do wonder to hear you
say that many, if not most divines, will rise against it, who have
published in print that there were but two in England that were of that
opinion, and have strenuously opposed it yourself. How things are in
France, I know not; but at Geneva, in Holland, in Switzerland, in all the
Protestant churches of Germany, I do know that this universal grace is
exploded. Sir, I shall trouble you no farther. I pray be pleased to
accept of my desire to undeceive you in those things, wherein either a
corrupt copy of our Confession or the reasonings of other men have given
you so many mistaken conceptions about our Confession.--I am, Sir, yours,
                                                              J. Owen     

To the Lady Hartopp

  Dear Madam,--Every work of God is good; the Holy One in the midst of us
will do no iniquity; and all things shall work together for good unto
them that love him, even those things which at present are not joyous,
but grievous; only his time is to be waited for, and his way submitted
unto, that we seem not to be displeased in our hearts that he is Lord
over us. Your dear infant is in the eternal enjoyment of the fruits of
all our prayers; for the covenant of God is ordered in all things, and
sure. We shall go to her; she shall not return to us. Happy she was in
this above us, that she had so speedy an issue of sin and misery, being
born only to exercise your faith and patience, and to glorify God's grace
in her eternal blessedness. My trouble would be great on the account of
my absence at this time from you both, but that this also is the Lord's
doing; and I know my own uselessness wherever I am. But this I will beg
of God for you both that you may not faint in this day of trial,--that
you may have a clear view of those spiritual and temporal mercies
wherewith you are yet intrusted (all undeserved),--that sorrow of the
world may not so overtake your hearts as to disenable to any duties, to
grieve the Spirit, to prejudice your lives; for it tends to death. God in
Christ will be better to you than ten children, and will so preserve your
remnant, and to add to them, as shall be for his glory and your comfort.
Only consider that sorrow in this case is no duty, it is an effect of
sin, whose cure by grace we should endeavour. Shall I say, Be cheerful? I
know I may. God help you to honour grace and mercy in a compliance
therewith. My heart is with you, my prayers shall be for you, and I am,
dear madam, your most affectionate friend and unworthy pastor,
                                                              J. Owen     

To Mrs Polhill

  Dear Madam,--The trouble expressed in yours is a great addition to
mine; the sovereignty of divine wisdom and grace is all that I have at
this day to retreat unto; God direct you thereunto also, and you will
find rest and peace. It adds to my trouble that I cannot possibly come
down to you this week. Nothing but engaged duty could keep me from you
one hour: yet I am conscious how little I can contribute to your guidance
in this storm, or your satisfaction. Christ is your pilot; and however
the vessel if tossed whilst he seems to sleep, he will arise and rebuke
these winds and waves in his own time. I have done it, and yet shall
farther wrestle with God for you, according to the strength he is pleased
to communicate. Little it is which at this distance I can mind you of;
yet some few things are necessary. Sorrow not too much for the dead: she
is entered into rest, and is taken away from the evil to come. Take heed
lest, by too much grief, you too much grieve that Holy Spirit, who is
infinitely more to us than all natural relations. I blame you not that
you so far attend to the call of God in this dispensation as to search
yourself, to judge and condemn yourself: grace can make it an evidence to
you that you shall not be judged or condemned of the Lord. I dare not say
that this chastisement was not needful. We are not in heaviness unless
need be; but if God be pleased to give you a discovery of the wisdom and
care that is in it, and how needful it was to awaken and restore your
soul in any thing, perhaps in many things, in due time you will see grace
and love in it also. I verily believe God expects, in this dealing with
you, that you should judge yourself, your sins and your decays; but he
would not have you misjudge your condition. But we are like froward
children, who, when they are rebuked and corrected, neglect other things,
and only cry that their parents hate and reject them. You are apt to
fear, to think and say, that you are one whom God regards not, who are
none of his; and that for sundry reasons which you suppose you can plead.
But, saith God, this is not the business; this is a part of your
frowardness. I call you to quicken your grace, to amend your own ways;
and you think you have nothing to do but to question my love. Pray,
madam, my dear sister, child and care, beware you lose not the advantage
of this dispensation; you will do so, if you use it only to afflictive
sorrows, or questioning of the love of God, or your interest in Christ.
The time will be spent in these things which should be taken up in
earnest endeavours after a compliance with God's will, quickenings of
grace, returns after backsliding, mortification of sin and love of the
world, until the sense of it do pass away. Labour vigorously to bring
your soul to this twofold resolution:-- 1. That the will of God is the
best rule for all things, and their circumstances. 2. That you will bring
yourself into a fresh engagement to live more to him: and you will find
the reminder of your work easy; for it is part of the yoke of Christ. I
shall trouble you no farther but only to give you the assurance that you
are in my heart continually, which is nothing; but it helps to persuade
me that you are in the heart of Christ, which is all.--I am, dear madam,
your very affectionate servant,
                                                              J. Owen     

To Charles Fleetword, Esq.

  Dear Sir,--I received yours and am glad to hear of your welfare. There
is more then ordinary mercy in every day's preservation. My wife, I bless
God, is much revived, so that I do not despair of her recovery; but for
myself, I have been under the power of various distempers for fourteen
days past, and do yet so continue. God is fastening his instruction
concerning the approach of that season wherein I must lay down this
tabernacle. I think my mind has been too much intent upon some things
which I looked on as services for the church; but God will have us know
that he has no need of me nor them, and is therefore calling me off from
them. Help me with your prayers, that I may, through the riches of his
grace in Christ, be in some measure ready for my account. The truth is,
we cannot see the latter rain in its season, as we have seen the former,
and a latter spring thereon. Death, that will turn in the streams of
glory upon our poor withering souls, is the best relief I begin to fear
that we shall die in this wilderness; yet ought we to labour and pray
continually that the heavens would drop down from above, and the skies
pour down righteousness,--that the earth may open and bring forth
salvation, and that righteousness may spring up together. If ever I
return to you in this world, I beseech you to contend yet more earnestly
than ever I have done, with God, with my own heart, with the church, to
labour after spiritual revivals. Our affectionate service to your lady,
and to all your family that are of the household of God.--I am, dearest
sir, yours most affectionately whilst I live,
                                                              J. Owen     
      Stadham, July 8         

To Charles Fleetwood, Esq.

  Dear Sir,--The bearer has stayed long enough with us to save you the
trouble of reading an account of me in my own scribbling: a longer stay I
could not prevail with him for, though his company was a great
refreshment to me. Both you and your whole family, in all their occasions
and circumstances, are daily in my thoughts; and when I am enabled to
pray, I make mention of you all without ceasing. I find you and I are
much in complaining. For my part I must say, And is there not a cause? So
much deadness, so much unspirituality, so much weakness in faith,
coldness in love, instability in holy meditations, as I find in myself,
is cause sufficient of complaints. But is there not cause also of
thanksgiving and joy in the Lord? Are there not reasons for them? When I
begin to think of them, I am overwhelmed; they are great, they are
glorious, they are inexpressible. Shall I now invite you to this great
duty of rejoicing more in the Lord? Pray for me, that I may do so; for
the near approach of my dissolution calls for it earnestly. My heart has
done with this world, even in the best and most desirable of its
refreshments. If the joy of the Lord be not now strength unto it, it will
fail. But I must have done. Unless God be pleased to affect some person
or persons with a deep sense of our declining condition, of the
temptations and dangers of the day, filling them with compassion for the
souls of men, making them fervent in spirit in their work, it will go but
ill with us. It may be these thoughts spring from causeless fears, it may
be none amongst us has an evil, a barren heart but myself: but bear with
me in this my folly; I cannot lay down these thought until I die; nor do
I mention them at present as though I should not esteem it a great mercy
to have so able a supply as Mr C., but I am groaning after deliverance;
and being near the centre, do hope I feel the drawing of the love of
Christ with more earnestness than formerly: but my naughty heart is
backward in these compliances. My affectionate service to Sir John
Hartopp, and his lady, and to the rest of your family, when God shall
return them unto you.--I am, dear sir, yours most affectionately in
everlasting bonds,
                                                              J. Owen     

To the Rev. Mr Robert Asty of Norwich

  Dear Sir,--I received yours by Mr B., to whom I shall commit this
return, and hope it will come safely to your hands; for although I can
acknowledge nothing of what you are pleased out of your love to ascribe
unto me, yet I shall be always ready to give you my thoughts in the way
of brotherly advice, whenever you shall stand in need of it: and at
present, as things are circumstanced, I do not see how you can waive or
decline the call of the church either in conscience or reputation. For,
to begin with the latter; should you do so upon the most Christian and
cogent grounds in your own apprehensions, yet wrong interpretations will
be put upon it; and so far as it is possible we ought to keep ourselves,
not only "extra noxam," but "suspicionem" also. But the point of
conscience is of more moment. All things concurring,--the providence of
God in bringing you to that place, the judgment of the church on your
gifts and grace for their edification and examples the joint consent of
the body of the congregation in your call, with present circumstances of
a singular opportunity for preaching the word, I confess at this distance
I see not how you can discharge that duty you owe to Jesus Christ (whose
you are, and not your own, and must rejoice to be what he will have you
to be, be it more or less) in refusing a compliance unto these manifest
indications of his pleasure; only, remember that you sit down and count
what it will cost you,--which I know you will not be discouraged by; for
the daily exercise of grace and learning of wisdom should not be grievous
unto us, though some of their occasions may be irksome. For the latter
part of your letter, I know no difference between a pastor and a teacher
but what follows their different gifts;--the office is absolutely the
same in both; the power the same, the right to the administration of all
ordinances every way the same: and at that great church at Boston, in New
England, the teacher was always the principal person; so was Mr Cotton
and Mr Norton. Where gifts make a difference, there is a difference;
otherwise there is none. I pray God guide you in this great affair; and I
beg your prayers for myself in my weak, infirm condition.--I am your
affectionate fiend and brother,
                                                              J. Owen     
      London, March 16

To Mr Baxter

  Sir,--The continuance of my cold, which yet holds me, with the severity
of the weather, have hitherto hindered me from answering my purpose of
coming unto you at Acton; but yet I hope, see long, to obtain the
advantage of enjoying your company there for a season. In the meantime, I
return you my thanks for the communication of your papers; and shall on
every occasion manifest that you have no occasion to question whether I
were in earnest in what I proposed, in reference to the concord you
design. For the desire of it is continually upon my heart; and to express
that desire on all occasion, I esteem one part of that profession of the
Gospel which I am called unto. Could I contribute any thing towards the
accomplishment of so holy, so necessary a work, I should willingly spend
myself and be spent in it. For what you design concerning your present
essay, I like it very well, both upon the reasons you mention in your
letter, as also that all those who may be willing and desirous to promote
so blessed a work may have copies by them, to prepare their thoughts in
reference to the whole.
  For the present, upon the liberty granted in your letter (if I remember
it aright), I shall tender you a few queries, which, if they are useless
or needless, deal with them accordingly.
  As,--1. Are not the several proposed or insisted on too many for this
first attempt? The general heads, I conceive, are not; but under them
very many particulars are not only included, which is unavoidable, but
expressed also which may too much dilate the original consideration of
the whole.
  2. You expressly exclude the Papists, who will also sure enough exclude
themselves, and do, from any such agreement; but have you done the same
as to the Socinians, who are numerous, and ready to include themselves
upon our communion? The Creed, as expounded in the four first councils,
will do it.
  3. Whether some expressions suited to prevent future divisions and
separations, after a concord is obtained, may not at present, to avoid
all exasperation, be omitted, as seeming reflective on former acting,
when there was no such agreement among us as is now aimed at?
  4. Whether insisting in particular on the power of the magistrate,
especially as under civil coercion and punishment in cases of error or
heresy, be necessary in this first attempt? These generals occurred to my
thoughts upon my first reading of your proposals. I will now read them
again, and set down, as I pass on, such apprehensions in particular as I
have of the several of them.
  To the first answer, under the first question, I assent; so also to the
first proposal, and the explanation; likewise to the second and third. I
thought to have proceeded thus throughout, but I foresee my so doing
would be tedious and useless; I shall therefore mention only what at
present may seem to require second thoughts. As,--
  1. To propos. 9, by those instances [what words to use in preaching, in
what words to pray, in what decent habit] do you intend homilies,
prescribed forms of prayer, and habits super added to those of vulgar
decent use? Present controversies will suggest an especial sense under
general expressions.
  2. Under pos. 13, do you think a man may not leave a church and join
himself to another, unless it be for such a cause or reason as he
supposes sufficient to destroy the being of the church? I meet with this
now answered in your 18th propos., and so shall forbear farther
particular remarks, and pass on.
  In your answer to the second question, your 10th position has in it
somewhat that will admit of farther consideration, as I think. In your
answer to the third question, have you sufficiently expressed the
accountableness of churches mutually, in case of offense from
maladministration and church censures? This also I now see in part
answered,--proposition fifth. I shall forbear to add any thing as under
your answer to the last question, about the power of the magistrate,
because I fear that in that matter of punishing I shall somewhat dissent
from you, though as to mere coercion I shall in some cases agree.
  Upon the whole matter, I judge your proposals worthy of great
consideration, and the most probable medium for the attaining of the end
aimed at that yet I have perused. If God give not a heart and mind to
desire peace and union, every expression will be disputed, under pretence
of truth and accuracy; but if these things have a place in us answerable
to that which they enjoy in the Gospel, I see no reason why all the true
disciples of Christ might not, upon these and the like principles,
condescend in love unto the practical concord and agreement, which not
one of them dare deny to be their duty to aim at. Sir, I shall pray that
the Lord would guide and prosper you in all studies and endeavours for
the service of Christ in the world, especially in this your desire and
study for the introducing of the peace and love promised amongst them
that believe, and do beg your prayers.--Your truly affectionate brother,
and unworthy fellow-servant, 
                                                            John Owen     
Jan. 26, 1668

3. His Works

A List of Dr Owen's Works, according to the years in which they
appear to have been published

Display of Arminianism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1642
The Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished. . . . . . . . . . . . . 1643
The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, in two Catechisms . . . . . 1645
A Vision of Unchangeable Mercy: a Sermon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1646
Eshcol; or, Rules for Church Fellowship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1647
Salus Electorum: a treatise on Redemptions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1648
Memorial of the Deliverance of Essex: two Sermons . . . . . . . . . . 1648
Righteous zeal--a Sermon; and Essay on Toleration . . . . . . . . . . 1649
The Shaking and Translating of Heaven and Earth: a sermon . . . . . . 1649
Human Power Defeated: a Sermon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1649
Of the Death of Christ, in answer to Baxter . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1650
The Steadfastness of Promises: a Sermon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1650
The Branch of the Lord: two Sermons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1650
The Advantage of the Kingdom of Christ: a sermon. . . . . . . . . . . 1651
The Labouring Saint's Dismission: a Sermon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1652
Christ's Kingdom and the Magistrate's Power: a Sermon . . . . . . . . 1652
De Divina Justitia: translated 1794 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1653
The Doctrine of the Saints' Perseverance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1654
Vindicae Evangelicae: Reply to Biddle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1655
On the Mortification of Sin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1656
Review of the Annotations of Grotius. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1656
God's Work in Founding Zion: a Sermon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1656
God's Presence with his People: a Sermon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1656
On Communion with God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1657
A Discovery of the True Nature of Schism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1657
A Review of the True Nature of Schism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1657
Answer to Cawdrey about Schism. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1658
Of the Nature and Power of Temptation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1658
The Divine Original of the Scriptures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1659
Vindication of the Hebrew and Greek Texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1659
Exercitationes ad versus Fanaticos. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1659
The Glory of Nations professing the Gospel: a Sermon. . . . . . . . . 1659
On the Power of the Magistrate about Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . 1659
A Primer for Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1660
Theologoumena Pantodapa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1661
Animadversions on Fiat Lux. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1662
A Discourse on Liturgies. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . l662
Vindication of the Animadversions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1664
Indulgence God Toleration Considered. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1667
A Peace-offering, or Plea for Indulgence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1667
Brief Instruction in the Worship of God: a Catechism. . . . . . . . . 1667
On Indwelling Sin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1668
Exposition of the 130th Psalm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1668
Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 1. . . . . . . . . . . 1668
Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1669
Tenth and Innocence Vindicated. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1669
On the Divine Institution of the Lord's Day . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1671
On Evangelical Love . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1672
Vindication of the Work on Communion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1674
Discourse on the Holy Spirit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1674
Exposition of the Hebrews, vol. 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1674
How we may Bring our Hearts to Bear Reproof . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1674
On the Nature of Apostasy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1676
The Reason of Faith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1677
On the Doctrine of Justification. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1677
The Ways and Means of Understanding the Mind of God . . . . . . . . . 1678
Christologia, or the Person of Christ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1679
The Church of Rome no Safe Guide. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1679
On Union among Protestants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1680
Vindication of the Nonconformists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1680
Exposition of the Hebrews, vol. 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1680
Defence of the Vindication. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1681
Inquiry into Evangelical Churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1681
Humble Testimony. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1681
On Spiritual-mindedness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1681
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1682
The Chamber of Imagery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1682
An Account of the Protestant Religion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1663
Meditations on the Glory of Christ, part 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1684
Exposition of the Hebrews, vol. 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1684
Of the Dominion of Sin and Grace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1688
True Nature of a Gospel Church. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1689
Meditations on the Glory of Christ, part 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1691
Two Discourses on the Work of the Spirit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1693
Evidences of the Faith of Gods Elect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1695
Seventeen Sermons, 2 Vols . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1720
An Answer to Two Questions; with Twelve Arguments against any
      Conformity to Worship not of Divine Institution . . . . . . . . 1720
Sermons and Tracts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1721
Thirteen Sermons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1756
Twenty-five Discourses suitable to the Lord's Supper. . . . . . . . . 1760