Life of Dr. John Owen. Part Five

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 Baxter
"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 seen."
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 theologian."
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 (continued in part 6...)

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