A brief Declaration and Vindication of The Doctrine of the Trinity and
also of The Person and Satisfaction of Christ accomodated to the
capacity and use of such as may be in danger to be seduced and the
establishment of the truth

by John Owen

Prefatory note

Few of Owen's treatises have been more extensively circulated and
generally useful than his "Brief Declaration and Vindication of the
Doctrine of the Trinity," etc. It was published in 1669; and the
author of the anonymous memoir of Owen, prefixed to an edition of his
Sermons in 1720, informs us "This small piece has met with such an
universal acceptance by true Christians of all denominations, that the
seventh edition of it was lately published." An edition printed in
Glasgow was published in 1798, and professes to be the eighth. A
translation of the work appeared in the Dutch language (Vitringa,
Doct. Christ., pars 6: p. 6, edit. 1776).
  At the time when the treatise was published, the momentous doctrines
of the Trinity and the Atonement were violently assailed; but it was
not so much for the refutation of opponents as for " the edification
and establishment of the plain Christian," that our author composed
the following little work. The reader will find in it traces of that
deep and familiar acquaintance with opposing views, and with the
highest theology involved in the questions which might be expected
from Dr Owen on a subject which he seems to have studied with peculiar
industry and research. Reference may be made to his "Vindiciae
Evangelical," and his "Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews", in
proof how thoroughly he had mastered the whole controversy in regard
to the divinity and satisfaction of Christ, so far as the discussion
had extended in his day. His controversy with Biddle, in which he
wrote his " Vindiciae Evangelical," took place in 1655; and the first
volume of the "Exposition" was published only the year before the
"Brief Declaration," etc., appeared. The latter may be regarded,
accordingly, as the substance of these important works, condensed and
adapted to popular use and comprehension, in all that relates to the
proper Godhead of the Son, and the nature of the work which he
accomplished in the redemption of his people.
  For the special object which he had in view, he adopts the course
which has since been generally approved of and pursued, as obviously
the wisest and safest in defending and expounding the doctrine of the
Trinity. He appeals to the broad mass of Scripture evidence in favour
of the doctrine, and after proving the divine unity, together with the
divinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost respectively, is careful not
to enter on any discussion in regard to the unrevealed mysteries
involved in the relations of the Trinity, beyond what was necessary
for the refutation of those who argue, that whatever in this high
doctrine is incomprehensible by reason, must be incompatible with
revelation. This little work is farther remarkable for the almost
total absence of the tedious digressions, which abound in the other
works of Owen. Such logical unity and concentration of thought is the
more remarkable, when we find that the treatise was written, as he
tells us, "in a few hours." But it was a subject on which his mind was
fully stored, and his whole heart was interested. The treatise which
follows, therefore, was not the spark struck in some moment of
collision, and serving only a temporary purpose, but a steady flame
nourished from the beaten oil of the sanctuary.

To the Reader


This small treatise has no other design but thy good, and
establishment in the truth. And therefore, as laying aside that
consideration alone, I could desirously have been excused from the
labour of those hours which were spent in its composure; so in the
work itself I admitted no one thought, but how the things treated of
in it might and ought to be managed unto thy spiritual benefit and
advantage. Other designs most men have in writing what is to be
exposed to public view, and lawfully may have so; in this I have
nothing but merely thy good. I have neither been particularly provoked
nor opposed by the adversaries of the truth here pleaded for, nor have
any need, from any self-respect, to publish such a small, plain
discourse as this. Love alone to the truth, and the welfare of thy
soul, has given efficacy to their importunity who pressed me to this
small service.
  The matters here treated of are on all hands confessed to be of the
greatest moment, such as the eternal welfare of the souls of men is
immediately and directly concerned in. This all those who believe the
sacred truths here proposed and explained do unanimously profess and
contend for, nor is it denied by those by whom they are opposed. There
is no need, therefore, to give thee any especial reasons to evince thy
concernment in these things, nor the greatness of that concernment,
thereby to induce thee unto their serious consideration. It were well,
indeed, that these great, sacred, and mysterious truths might, without
contention or controversies about them, be left unto the faith of
believers, as proposed in the Scripture, with that explanation of them
which, in the ordinary ministry and dispensation of the gospel, is
necessary and required.
  Certainly, these tremendous mysteries are not by us willingly to be
exposed, or prostituted to the cavils of every perverse querist and
disputer; - those learned researchers of this century, whose pretended
wisdom (indeed ignorance, darkness, and folly) God has designed to
confound and destroy in them and by them. For my part, I can assure
thee, reader, I have no mind to contend and dispute about these
things, which I humbly adore and believe as they are revealed. It is
the importunity of adversaries, in their attempts to draw and seduce
the souls of men from the truth and simplicity of the gospel in these
great fundamentals of it, that alone can justify any to debate upon,
or eristically [in the form of controversy] to handle these awful
mysteries. This renders it our duty, and that indispensably, inasmuch
as we are required to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered
unto the saints." But yet, also, when this necessity is imposed on us,
we are by no means discharged from that humble reverence of mind
wherewith we ought always to be conversant about them; nor from that
regard unto the way and manner of their revelation in the Scripture
which may preserve us from all unnecessary intermixture of litigious
or exotic phrases and expressions in their assertion and declaration.
I know our adversaries could, upon the matter, decry any thing
peculiarly mysterious in these things, although they are frequently
and emphatically in the Scriptures affirmed so to be. But, whilst they
deny the mysteries of the things themselves - which are such as every
way become the glorious being and wisdom of God, - they are forced to
assign such an enigmatical sense unto the words, expressions, and
propositions wherein they are revealed and declared in the Scripture,
as to turn almost the whole gospel into an allegory, wherein nothing
is properly expressed but in some kind of allusion unto what is so
elsewhere: which irrational way of proceeding, leaving nothing certain
in what is or may be expressed by word or writing, is covered over
with a pretence of right reason; which utterly refuses to be so
employed. These things the reader will find afterward made manifest,
so far as the nature of this brief discourse will bear. And I shall
only desire these few things of him that intends its perusal: - First,
That he would not look on the subject here treated of as the matter of
an ordinary controversy in religion, -

        - "Neque denim hic levia aut ludicra petuntur 
        Praemia; lectoris de vita animaeque salute

They are things which immediately and directly in themselves concern
the eternal salvation of the souls of men, and their consideration
ought always to be attended with a due sense of their weight and
importance. Secondly, Let him bring with him a due reverence of the
majesty, and infinite, incomprehensible nature of God, as that which
is not to be prostituted to the captious and sophistical scanning of
men of corrupt minds, but to be humbly adored, according to the
revelation that he has made of himself. Thirdly, That he be willing to
submit his soul and conscience to the plain and obvious sense of
Scripture propositions and testimonies, without seeking out evasions
and pretences for unbelief. These requests I cannot but judge equal,
and fear not the success where they are sincerely complied withal.
  I have only to add, that in handling the doctrine of the
satisfaction of Christ, I have proceeded on that principle which, as
it is fully confirmed in the Scripture, so it has been constantly
maintained and adhered unto by the most of those who with judgment and
success have managed these controversies against the Socinians: and
this is, that the essential holiness of God with his justice or
righteousness, as the supreme governor of all, did indispensably
require that sin should not also lately go unpunished; and that it
should do so, stands in a repugnancy to those holy properties of his
nature. This, I say, has been always constantly maintained by far the
greatest number of them who have thoroughly understood the controversy
in this matter, and have successfully engaged in it. And as their
arguments for their assertion are plainly unanswerable, so the neglect
of abiding by it is causelessly to forego one of the most fundamental
and invincible principles in our cause. He who first laboured in the
defense of the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, after Socinus
had formed his imaginations about the salvation that he wrought, and
began to dispute about it, was Covetus, a learned man, who laid the
foundation of his whole disputation in the justice of God, necessarily
requiring, and indispensably, the punishment of sin. And, indeed, the
state of the controversy as it is laid down by Socinus, in his book
"De Jesu Christy Servatore," which is an answer to this Covetus, is
genuine, and that which ought not to be receded from, as having been
the direct ground of all the controversial writings on that subject
which have since been published in Europe. And it is in these words
laid down by Socinus himself: "Communes et orthodoxy (ut asseris)
sentential est, Jesum Christum ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia
divinae justitiae per quam peccatores damnari merebamur, pro peccatis
nostris plane satisfecerit; quae satisfactio, per Fidem, imputatur
nobis ex dono Dei credentibus." This he ascribes to Covetus: "The
common and orthodox judgment is, that Jesus Christ is therefore our
Saviour, because he has satisfied the justice of God, by which we,
being sinners, deserved to be condemned for all our sins" [which
satisfaction, through faith, is imputed to us who through the grace of
God believe.] In opposition whereunto he thus expresses his own
opinion: "Ego vero censeo, et orthodoxam sententiam esse arbitror,
Jesum Christuam ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia salutes eternae
viam nobis annuntiaverit, confirmaverit, et in sua ipsius persona, cum
vitae examplo, tum ex mortuis resurgendo, manifeste ostenderit;
vitamque aeternam nobis ei fidem habentibus ipse daturus sit. Divinae
autem justitiae, per quam peccatores damnari meremur, pro peccatis
nostril neque illum satisfecisse, neque et satisfaceret, opus fuisse
arbitror;" - "I judge and suppose it to be the orthodox opinion, that
Jesus Christ is therefore our Saviour, because he has declared unto us
the way of eternal salvation, and confirmed it in his own person;
manifestly showing it, both by the example of his life and by rising
from the dead; and in that he will give eternal life unto us,
believing in him. And I affirm, that he neither made satisfaction to
the justice of God, whereby we deserved to be damned for our sins, nor
was there any need that he should so do." This is the true state of
the question; and the principal subtlety of Crellius, the great
defender of this part of the doctrine of Socinus, in his book of the
"Causes of the Death of Christ," and the defense of this book, "De
Jesu Christu Servatore," consists in speaking almost the same words
with those whom he does oppose, but still intending the same things
with Socinus himself. This opinion, as was said of Socinus, Covetus
opposed and everted on the principle before mentioned.
  The same truth was confirmed also by Zarnovitius, who first wrote
against Socinus' book; as also by Otto Casmannus, who engaged in the
same work; and by Abraham Salinarius. Upon the same foundation do
proceed Paraeus, Piscator, Lubbertus, Lucius, Camero, Voetius,
Amyraldus, Placaeus, Rivetus, Walaeus, Thysius, Althingius, Maresius,
Essenius, Arnoldus, Turretinus, Baxter, with many others. The
Lutherans who have managed these controversies, as Tarnovius,
Meisnerus, Calovius, Stegmannus, Martinius, Franzius, with all others
of their way, have constantly maintained the same great fundamental
principle of this doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ; and it has
well and solidly been of late asserted among ourselves on the same
foundation. And as many of these authors do expressly blame some of
the school men, as Aquinas, Durandus, Biel, Tataretus, for granting a
possibility of pardon without satisfaction, as opening a way to the
Socinian error im this matter; so also they fear not to affirm, that
the foregoing of this principle of God's vindictive justice
indispensably requiring the punishment of sin, does not only weaken
the cause of the truth, but indeed leave it indefensible. However, I
suppose men ought to be wary how they censure the authors mentioned,
as such who expose the cause they undertook to defend unto contempt;
for greater, more able, and learned defenders, this truth has not as
yet found, nor does stand in need of.
                                                              John Owen

The Preface

The disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ having made that great
confession of him, in distinction and opposition unto them, who
accounted him only as a prophet, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
living God," Matt. 16: 14, 16, he does, on the occasion thereof, give
out unto them that great charter of the church's stability and
continuance, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it," verse 18. He is himself the rock
upon which his church is built, - as God is called the rock of his
people, on the account of his eternal power and immutability, Deut.
32: 4, 18, 31, Isa. 26: 4; and himself the spiritual rock which gave
out supplies of mercy and assistance to the people in the wilderness,
1 Cor. 10: 4.
  The relation of the professing church unto this rock consists in the
faith of this confession, that he is "the Christ, the Son of the
living God." This our Lord Jesus Christ has promised to secure against
all attempts; yet so as plainly to declare, that there should be great
and severe opposition made thereunto For whereas the prevalence of the
gates of hell in an enmity unto this confession is denied, a great and
vigorous attempt to prevail therein is no less certainly foretold.
Neither has it otherwise fallen out. In all ages, from the first
solemn foundation of the church of the New Testament, it has, one way
or other, been fiercely attempted by the "gates of hell." For some
time after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the principal
endeavours of Satan, and men acting under him, or acted by him, were
pointed against the very foundation of the church, as laid in the
expression before mentioned. Almost all the errors and heresies
wherewith for three or four centuries of years it was perplexed, were
principally against the person of Christ himself; and, consequently,
the nature and being of the holy and blessed Trinity. But being
disappointed in his design herein, through the watchful care of the
Lord Christ over his promise, in the following ages Satan turned his
craft and violence against sundry parts of the superstructure, and, by
the assistance of the Papacy, cast them into confusion, - nothing, as
it were, remaining firm, stable, and in order, but only this one
confession, which in a particular manner the Lord Christ has taken
upon himself to secure.
  In these latter ages of the world, the power and care of Jesus
Christ reviving towards his church, in the reformation of it, even the
ruined heaps of its building have been again reduced into some
tolerable order and beauty. The old enemies of its peace and welfare
falling hereby under a disappointment, and finding his travail and
labour for many generations in a great part frustrate, he is returned
again to his old work of attacking the foundation itself; as he is
unweary and restless, and can be quiet neither conqueror nor
conquered, - nor will be so, until he is bound and cast into the lake
that burns with fire. For no sooner had the reformation of religion
firmed itself in some of the European provinces, but immediately, in a
proportion of distance not unanswerable unto what fell out from the
first foundation of the church, sundry persons, by the instigation of
Satan, attempted the disturbance and ruin of it, by the very same
errors and heresies about the Trinity, the person of Christ and his
offices, the person of the Holy Ghost and his grace, wherewith its
first trouble and ruin was endeavoured. And hereof we have of late an
instance given among ourselves, and that so notoriously known, through
a mixture of imprudence and impudence in the managers of it, that a
very brief reflection upon it will suffice unto our present design.
  It was always supposed, and known to some, that there are sundry
persons in this nation, who, having been themselves seduced into
Socinianism, did make it their business, under various pretences, to
draw others into a compliance with them in the same way and
persuasion. Neither has this, for sundry years, been so secretly
carried, but that the design of it has variously discovered itself by
overt acts of conferences, disputations, and publishing of books;
which last way of late has been sedulously pursued. Unto these three
is now a visible accession made, by that sort of people whom men will
call Quakers, from their deportment at the first erection of their way
(long since deserted by them), until, by some new revolutions of
opinions, they cast themselves under a more proper denomination. That
there is a conjunction issued between both these sorts of men, in an
opposition to the holy Trinity, with the person and grace of Christ,
the pamphlets of late published by the one and the other do
sufficiently evince. For however they may seem in sundry things as yet
to look diverse ways, yet, like Samson's foxes, they are knit together
by the tail of consent in these firebrand opinions, and jointly
endeavour to consume the standing corn of the church of God. And their
joint management of their business of late has been as though it were
their design to give as great a vogue and report to their opinions as
by any ways they are able. Hence, besides their attempts to be
proclaiming their opinions, under various pretences, in all assemblies
whereinto they may intrude themselves (as they know) without trouble,
they are exceeding sedulous in scattering and giving away, yea,
imposing gratis (and, as to some, ingratiis), their small books which
they publish, upon all sorts of persons promiscuously, as they have
advantage so to do. By this means their opinions being of late become
the talk and discourse of the common sort of Christians, and the
exercise of many, - amongst whom are not a few that, on sundry
accounts, which I shall not mention, may possibly be exposed unto
disadvantage and prejudice thereby, - it has been thought meet by some
that the sacred truths which these men oppose should be plainly and
briefly asserted and confirmed from the scripture; that those of the
meanest sort of professors, who are sincere and upright, exercising
themselves to keep a good conscience in matters of faith and obedience
to God, may have somewhat in a readiness, both to guide them in their
farther inquiry into the truth, as also to confirm their faith in what
they have already received, when at any time it is shaken or opposed
by the "cunning sleight of men that lie in wait to deceive."
  And this comprises the design of the ensuing discourse. It may
possibly be judged needless by some, as it was in its first proposal
by him by whom it is written; and that because this matter at present
is, by an especial providence, cast on other hands, who both have, and
doubtless, as occasion shall require, will well acquit themselves in
the defense of the truths opposed. Not to give any other account of
the reasons of this small undertaking it may suffice, that "in publico
discrimine omnis homo miles est," - "eyery man's concernment lying in
a common danger," - it is free for every one to manage it as he thinks
bests, and is able, so it be without prejudice to the whole or the
particular concerns of others. If a city be on fire, whose bucket that
brings water to quench it ought to be refused? The attempt to cast
fire into the city of God by the opinions mentioned, is open and
plain; and a timely stop being to be put unto it, the more hands that
are orderly employed in its quenching, the more speedy and secure is
the effect like to be.
  Now, because the assertors of the opinions mentioned do seem to set
out themselves to be some great ones, above the ordinary rate of men,
as having found out, and being able publicly to maintain, such things
as never would have entered into the minds of others to have thought
on or conceived; and also that they seem with many to be thought
worthy of their consideration because they now are new, and such as
they have not been acquainted withal; I shall, in this prefatory
entrance, briefly manifest that those who have amongst us undertaken
the management of these opinions have brought nothing new unto them,
but either a little contemptible sophistry and caption of words, on
the one hand, or futilous, affected, unintelligible expressions, on
the other, - the opinions themselves being no other but such as the
church of God, having been opposed by and troubled with from the
beginning, has prevailed against and triumphed over in all
generations. And were it not that confidence is the only relief which
enraged impotency adheres unto and expects supplies from, I should
greatly admire that those amongst us who have undertaken an
enforcement of these old exploded errors, whose weakness does so
openly discover and proclaim itself in all their endeavours, should
judge themselves competent to give a new spirit of life to the dead
carcass of these rotten heresies, which the faith of the saints in all
ages has triumphed over, and which truth and learning have, under the
care and watchfulness of Christ, so often baffled out of the world.
  The Jews, in the time of our Saviour's converse on the earth, being
fallen greatly from the faith and worship of their forefathers, and
ready to sink into their last and utmost apostasy from God, seem,
amongst many other truths, to have much lost that of the doctrine of
the holy Trinity, and of the person of the Messiah. It was, indeed,
suited, in the dispensation of God, unto the work that the Lord Jesus
had to fulfil in the world, that, before his passion and resurrection,
the knowledge of his divine nature, as unto his individual person,
should be concealed from the most of men. For this cause, although he
was "in the form of Good, and thought it not robbery to be equal with
God, yet he made himself of no reputation, by inking on him the form
of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men, that being found
in the fashion of a man, he might be obedient unto death," Phil. 2: 6-
8; whereby his divine glory was veiled for a season, until he was
"declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of
holiness, by the resurrection from the dead," Rom. 1:4; and then "was
glorified with that glory which he had with the Father before the
world was," John 17: 6. And as this dispensation was needful unto the
accomplishment of the whole work which, as our mediator, he had
undertaken, so, in particular, he who was in himself the Lord of
hosts, a sanctuary to them that feared him, became hereby "a stone of
stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a
gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem," Isa. 8: 13, 14.
See Luke 2: 34; Rom. 9: 33; 1 Pet. 2: 8; Isa. 28: 16. But yet,
notwithstanding, as occasions required, suitably unto his own holy
ends and designs, he forbare not to give plain and open testimony to
his own divine nature and eternal pre-existence unto his incarnation.
And this was it which, of all other things, most provoked the carnal

(continued in part 2...)

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