Life of Dr. John Owen. Part Four.

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 hardihood.
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, who
"-- 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 honour.
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 field.
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 (continued in part 5...)

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