(Thomson, Life of Dr. Owen. part 2)

will, they have not equal respect unto all God's ordinances" If Burnet's 
"Pastoral Care" and Baxter's "Reformed Pastor" may be named as the guides 
and counsellors of the ministers of that age, this, tractate might well 
have been placed beside them as the handbook of the people. 
  We still trace the signs of the busy pastor in his next publication, 
which is entitled, "The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ Unfolded, in 
Two Short Catechisms;" the first being intended for young persons, the 
second for adults, and as an aid to parents in domestic instruction. We 
are reminded, as we look on the stalworth Puritan, who is soon to mingle 
in the great theological discussions of the day, thus preparing "milk for 
babes," of Johnson's admiring sentence on Isaac Watts: "Providing 
instruction for all ages, from those who were lisping their first 
lessons, to the enlightened readers of Malebranche and Locke." 
  During these years of his labourious and unostentatious pastorals, the 
solid reputation of Owen was extending, and on April 29, 1646, he was 
appointed to preach before Parliament, on occasion of its monthly fast. 
The discourse is founded on Acts 16:9, " A vision appeared to Paul in the 
night: there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over 
into Macedonia, and help us;" and is written in a style of popular 
eloquence by no means characteristic of the usual strain of Owen's 
writings. The thanks of the House were conveyed to Owen by Mr Fenner and 
Sir Philip Wentworth, and the discourse commanded to be printed. The 
evangelic zeal of the pastor of Fordham breaks forth, towards the close, 
in behalf of those parts of the empire which were destitute of religious 
instruction, and especially in behalf of his ancestral country, Wales: 
"When manna fell in the wilderness from the hand of the Lord, every one 
had an equal share. I would there were not now too great an inequality 
when secondarily in the hand of man, whereby some have all, and others 
none; some sheep daily picking the choice flowers of every pasture,-- 
others wandering upon the barren mountains, without guide or food." The 
glowing terms in which he dedicates his sermon to the Long Parliament, as 
"most deservedly celebrated through the whole world, and to be held in 
everlasting remembrance by all the inhabitants of this island," have 
drawn forth the disapprobation of some. But what contemporary opinion has 
been more justified by the calm judgment of later history? What English 
Parliament ever bore upon its roll such a list of patriots, or surrounded 
the immunities of the people with such constitutional guards? Even the 
grudging concession of Hume goes so far as to say that their conduct, 
with one exception, was such as "to entitle them to praise from all 
lovers of liberty." 
  Not long after this, Owen's pastoral connection with Fordham was 
brought to a close. The "sequestered incumbent" whose place he had 
occupied died, and the right of presenting to the living having in this 
way reverted to the patron, it was given to another. The event became the 
occasion of introducing him to a wider sphere. The people of Coggeshall, 
an important market-town of Essex, about five miles distant, no sooner 
received the tidings of his deprivation than they sent a pressing 
invitation to him to become their minister,--an invitation which the 
patron, the Earl of Warwick, immediately confirmed Unlike Fordham, this 
new charge had previously been diligently cultivated by a succession of 
faithful ministers; so that his work was not so much to lay the 
foundation as to build. He soon beheld himself surrounded by a 
congregation of nearly two thousand people, whose general religious 
consistency and Christian intelligence were a delight to his heart, and 
whose strong attachment to him subsequent events gave them abundant 
opportunities of testifying. 
  Contemporaneously with these outward changes in Owen's position, 
considerable changes also took place in his opinions on church 
government. His removal to Coggeshall is named as the period at which he 
renounced Presbyters; and the order of his church there is field to have 
been brought into a closer conformity with the Independent or 
Congregational model. 
  There were principles, however, retained by Owen, both on the subject 
of the ruling elder and of synods,--as we shall have occasion to show in 
noticing some of his later writings,--which prove that his 
Congregationalism was of a somewhat modified character, and which a 
moderate Presbyterian of our own times, though not vaunting as identical 
with his views, would yet hail as evidence that the gulf between himself 
and the Congregationalist is not impassable. But the Presbyterians of 
Owen's early days in general went much farther than those of the present 
age; and we deem it not the least of his honours that he refused to 
follow in their course. Not that we have any sympathy with those terms of 
unqualified censure with which the Presbyterians of that age have too 
often been characterized. During the period of their brief supremacy, 
they accomplished much for England. In proportion as we value those noble 
statements of doctrine, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, must 
we be grateful to the Presbyterians, who took so prominent and cordial a 
part in those deliberations which produced them. Well-informed and candid 
men of other religious parties have not been slow to admit that those 
districts of England which were brought under a Presbyterian pastorate 
and polity, made visible progress in Christian intelligence and piety; 
and many of those measures which were adopted by them in opposition to 
Cromwell, and which have often been ascribed to hostility to liberty, 
were, in fact, honest endeavours on their part to restore a 
constitutional government. But the intolerant spirit which animated them 
at this particular juncture is neither to be extenuated nor denied. 
  Having recently risen to power, they had become dazzled by the dream of 
an impracticable uniformity, and, as Baxter, himself a Presbyterian, 
complains, had shown too great a readiness to invoke to their aid in 
realizing this ambitious dream the arm of secular power. The endless 
diversity of opinion which the growing liberty and the general ferment at 
the public mind had occasioned was regarded by them as evidence of the 
dangers of unlimited toleration, and they imagined that amid such 
discordant sounds truth must be indistinguishable, and even perish from 
the earth. Owen's mind had, meanwhile, far advanced beyond these narrow 
views, and risen above these imaginary fears. He had boundless confidence 
in the vitality of truth,--strong convictions of the power of its own 
spiritual weapons, and of the utter impotence of every other: and while 
so many of those with whom he hitherto been associated saw only, in the 
mingled light and darkness, the approach of night, he hailed in them the 
hopeful twilight which was to grow into perfect day. In a "Country essay 
for the practice of church government," prefixed to his sermon before 
Parliament, he repeatedly condemns all enforced conformity and punishment 
of heretical opinions by the sword. "Heresy," says he, "is a canker, but 
it is a spiritual one; let it be prevented by spiritual means: cutting 
off men's heads is no proper remedy for it." That Owen should have 
renounced Presbyters, in the intolerant and repulsive form in which it 
was at this time presented to him, is not to be wondered at; but that he 
recoiled equally far at every point from all the essential and 
distinctive principles of that form of church government is a statement 
which many have found it more difficult to believe. At the same time, no 
reasonable doubt can be entertained that the government of Owen's church 
at Coggeshall was decidedly Congregational; and if that church in any 
degree corresponded with the counsels which Owen addressed to it in his 
next publication, it must have been preeminently one of those to which 
Baxter alludes in that honorable testimony, "I saw a commendable care of 
serious holiness and discipline in most of the Independent churches." The 
publication to which we refer is "Eshcol; or, Rules of Direction for the 
Walking of the Saints in Fellowship according to the order of the Gospel, 
1647." The rules are arranged into two parts,--those which relate to the 
duty of members to their pastors, and those which specify the duties of 
members to each other. They are designed to recall men from debates about 
church order to the serious, humble performance of those duties which 
grow out of their common fellowship in the gospels. Amid its maxims of 
holy wisdom it would he impossible to discover whether Owen was a 
Congregationalist or a Presbyterian. 
  "Eshcol" was the work of Owen as a pastor; in the following year he was 
once more to appear as a theologian and Christian polemic, in a work on 
which he had long been secretly engaged,--"Salus Electorum, Sanguis Iesu; 
or, the Death of Death in the Death of Christ." The great subject of this 
treatise is the nature and extent of the death of Christ, with especial 
reference to the Arminian sentiments on the latter subject. It is 
dedicated to the Earl of Warwick, the good patron who had introduced Owen 
to Coggeshall, and warmly recommended by two Presbyterian ministers as 
"pulling down the rotten house of Arminianism upon the head of those 
Philistines who would uphold it." Owen himself makes no secret of having 
devoted to it immense research and protracted meditations. He had given 
it to the world after a more than seven-years serious inquiry, with a 
serious perusal of all that the wit of man, in former or latter days, had 
published in opposition to the truth. It is not without good reason 
therefore, that he claims a serious perusal in return: "Reader, if thou 
art as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest 
into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again,--thou hast had thy 
entertainment: farewell." The characteristic excellencies of Owen's mind 
shine out in this work with great lustre,--comprehension and elevation of 
view, which make him look at his subject in its various relations and 
dependencies, united with the most patiently minute examination of its 
individual parts,--intellectual strength, that delights to clear its way 
through impeding sophistries and snares,-- soundness of judgment, often 
manifesting, even in his polemical writings, the presence and power of a 
heavenly spirit, and "expressing itself in such pithy and pregnant words 
of wisdom, that you both delight in the reading, and praise God for the 
writer." Owen does not merely touch his subject, but travels through it 
with the elephant's grave and solid step, if sometimes also with his 
ungainly motion; and more than any other writer makes you feel, when he 
has reached the end of his subject, that he has also exhausted it. 
  In those parts of the present treatise in which he exhibits the 
glorious union and cooperation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in 
the work of redemption, and represents the death of Christ as part of the 
divine plan which infallibly secures the bringing of many sons unto 
glory, he has shown a mastery of argument and a familiarity with the 
subject-matter of revelation, that leave even the kindred treatise of 
Witsius far behind. Many modern Calvinists have, indeed, expressed a 
doubt whether, in thus establishing the truth, he has yet established the 
whole truth; and whether his masterly treatise would not have more 
completely exhibited the teaching of Scripture on the relations of the 
death of Christ, had it shown that, in addition to its more special 
designs, and in harmony with them, it gave such satisfaction to the 
divine justice as to lay a broad and ample foundation for the universal 
calls of the Gospel. It is quite true that the great object of the book 
is to prove that Christ died for the elect only; and yet there are 
paragraphs in which Owen, in common with all Calvinists worthy of the 
name who hold the same view, argues for the true internal perfection and 
sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, as affording a ground for the 
indiscriminate invitations of the Gospel, in terms as strong and explicit 
as the most liberal Calvinist would care to use. This great work was the 
occasion of much controversy; and it is worthy of especial notice that it 
was the first production that turned towards Owen the keen eye of Richard 
Baxter, and brought the two great Puritans at length to measure arms. 
  Eventful and anxious years were now passing over the land, in which the 
long struggle between prerogative and popular right continued to be waged 
with various success; and at length Owen beheld war brought almost to his 
door. The friends of Charles, having suddenly risen in Essex, had seized 
on Colchester, and imprisoned a committee of Parliament that had been 
sent into Essex to look after their affairs. Lord Fairfax, the leader of 
the Parliament's forces, had in consequence been sent to recover 
Colchester and deliver the committee, and for nearly ten weeks maintained 
a strict siege before its walls. Coggeshall, being not far distant, was 
chosen as the head quarters of the general; and intercourse having been 
begun between him and Owen, it became the foundation of a lasting 
friendship, which, we shall soon find, was not without important fruits. 
At the close of the ten weeks' siege, of which Owen describes himself as 
having been an "endangered spectator," he preached two sermons; the one 
to the army at Colchester on a day of thanksgiving for its surrender, and 
the other at Rumford to the Parliamentary committee on occasion of their 
deliverance. These were afterwards published as one discourse on Hab. 
  But in the course of a few months, Owen was called to officiate in 
circumstances unspeakably more critical. Charles I had been brought to 
trial before the High Court of Justice, on the charge of being a traitor, 
tyrant, and murderer; and, in execution of its daring judgment, beheaded 
before the gates of Whitehall. On the day following this awful 
transaction, Owen preached by command before Parliament; and the manner 
in which he discharged this unsought and perilous duty, it has been not 
unusual to represent as one of the most vulnerable points in his public 
life. His sermon, which is entitled, "Righteous Zeal Encouraged by Divine 
Protection," is founded on Jer. 15:l9,20, "I will make thee unto this 
people a fenced brazen wall; and they shall fight against thee, but they 
shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee, and to 
deliver thee, saith the Lord,"--a passage which obviously gave him ample 
opportunity for commenting on recent events. It is remarkable, however, 
that there is throughout a systematic and careful confining of himself to 
general statements, the most explicit allusion to the event of which, 
doubtless, every mind at the moment was full, being in that two edged 
sentence, "To those that cry, give me a king, God can give him in his 
anger; and from those that cry, Take him away, he can take him away in 
his wrath;" and the charge founded on this constrained silence, from the 
days of Owen to our own, is that of selfish and cowardly temporizing. 
Even one eminent Scottish historian, dazzled, we presume, by the picture 
of his own Knox, with Bible in hand, addressing Mary, and of other stern 
presbyters rebuking kings, imagines one of these to have occupied the 
place of Owen, and with what fearless fidelity he would have addressed 
those august commoners, "even though every hair of their heads had been a 
spear pointed at his breast." 
  But is there not a considerable amount of undue severity in all this? 
In all likelihood those who had demanded this service of Owen blamed him 
for an opposite reason, and hoped that this theologian of high renown and 
untainted reputation would, in the hour of their extremity, have 
surrounded their daring act with something more than the dubious sanction 
of his ominous silence. But to ascribe his silence to cowardice, is to 
assume that he secretly regarded the destruction of Charles as an 
indefensible act of crime. And was this necessarily Owen's judgment? It 
was surely possible that, while believing that the party which had 
brought Charles to the scaffold had violated the letter of the 
constitution, he may also have believed that it was in righteous 
punishment of one whose whole career as a monarch had been one long 
conspiracy against it, and who had aimed, by fourteen years of force and 
perfidy, to establish despotism upon the ruins of popular liberty. He may 
have thought that treason was as possible against the constitution as 
against the crown, and to the full as criminal; and that where a king 
rejected all government by law, he could no longer be entitled to the 
shelter of irresponsibility. He may have looked upon the death of Charles 
as the last resource of a long-tried patience,--the decision of the 
question, Who shall perish? the one, or the million? We do not say that 
these were actually Owen's sentiments, but it is well known that they 
were the thoughts of some of the purest and loftiest minds of that 
earnest age; and if Owen even hesitated on these points, on which it is 
well-known Milton believed, then silence was demanded, not only by 
prudence, but by honesty, especially in a composition which he himself 
describes at, "like Jonah's gourd, the production of a night."  
  Whatever opinion may be formed of Owen's conduct in the matter of the 
sermon, there are few, we imagine, that will not look on the publication 
of his "Discourse on Toleration," annexed to the sermon, and presented to 
the Parliament along with it, as one of the most honourable facts in the 
public life of this great Puritan. The leading design of this essay is to 
vindicate the principle, that errors in religion are not punishable by 
the civil magistrate, with the exception of such as in their own nature, 
not in some men's apprehensions, disturb the order of society. To assert 
that this great principle, which is the foundationstone of religious 
liberty, was in any sense the discovery of Owen, or of that great party 
to which he belonged, is to display a strange oblivion of the history of 
opinions. Even in the writings of some of the earliest Reformers, such as 
Zwingle, the principle may be found stated and vindicated with all the 
clearness and force with which Owen has announced it; and Principal 
Robertson has satisfactorily proved, that the Presbyterian church of 
Holland was the first among the churches of the Reformation formally to 
avow the doctrine, and to embody and defend it in its authoritative 
documents. Nor is it matter of mere conjecture, that it was on the 
hospitable shores of Holland, and in the bosom of her church, that 
English fugitives first learned the true principles of religious liberty, 
and bore them back as a precious leaven to their own land. It is enough 
to say of Owen and his party, that in their attachment to these 
principles they were greatly in advance of their contemporaries; and that 
the singular praise was theirs, of having been equally zealous for 
toleration when their party had risen to power, as when they were a weak 
and persecuted sect. And when we consider the auspicious juncture at 
which Owen gave forth his sentiments on this momentous subject, his 
influence over that great religious party of which he was long the chief 
ornament and ruling Spirit, as well as the deference shown to him by the 
political leaders and patriots of the age, it is not too much to say, 
that when the names of Jeremy Taylor and Milton, and Vane and Locke are 
mentioned, that of John Owen must not be forgotten, as one of the most 
signal of those who helped to fan and quicken, if not to kindle, in 
England, that flame which, "by God's help, shall never go out;" who, 
casting abroad their thoughts on the public mind when it was in a state 
of fusion and impressibility, became its preceptor on the rights of 
conscience, and have contributed to make the principles of religious 
freedom in England familiar, omnipresent, and beneficent, as the light or 
the air. 
  On the 19th of April we find Owen once more summoned to preach before 
Parliament, the chiefs of the army being also present; on which occasion 
he preached his celebrated sermon, "On the Shaking of Heaven and Earth," 
Heb.12:27. Oliver Cromwell was present, and probably for the first time 
heard Owen preach. Ere the sermon was completed, Cromwell had formed a 
resolution which the following day gave him an opportunity of executing. 
Owen having called at the house of General Fairfax, to pay his respects 
to him in remembrance of their recent intercourse at Colchester, was 
informed by the servants that the general was so indisposed that he had 
already declined to receive the visits of several persons of quality. The 
pastor of Coggeshall, however, sent in his name; and while waiting, 
Cromwell and many other officers entered the room. Owen's tall and 
stately figure soon caught the eye of Cromwell as the person whom he had 
heard preach with so much delight yesterday; and going up to him, he laid 
his hands upon his shoulders, and said to him familiarly, "Sir, you are 
the person I must be acquainted with." Owen modestly replied, "That will 
be much more to my advantage than yours." To which Cromwell returned, "We 
shall soon see that;" and taking Owen by the hand, led him into the 
garden, and made known to him his intention to depart for Ireland, and 
his wish that Owen should accompany him as chaplain, and also to aid him 
in investigating and setting in order the affairs of the University of 
Dublin. To this unexpected proposal Owen naturally objected the claims of 
his church at Coggeshall; but Cromwell reminding him that he was about to 
take his younger brother, whom he dearly loved, as standard-bearer in the 
same army, would not listen to a refusal. He even wrote to the church at 
Coggeshall urging their consent; and when they showed themselves even 
more averse to the separation than their pastor, Cromwell rose from 
entreaties to commands; and Owen, with the advice of certain ministers 
whom he consulted, was at length induced to make slow preparations for 
the voyage. 
  In the interval between these arrangements and his departure for 
Ireland, we discover Owen once more preaching before the officers of 
state and the House of Commons, on occasion of the destruction of the 
Levellers; and about the middle of August we find the army ready to 
embark for Ireland. On the day before the embarkation it presented one of 
those characteristic pictures which are almost without a parallel in the 
history of nations. The entire day was devoted to fasting and prayer;-- 
three ministers in succession, among whom we cannot doubt was Owen, 
solemnly invoked the divine protection and blessing; after which Colonels 
Gough and Harrison, with Cromwell himself, expounded certain pertinent 
passages of Scripture. No oath was heard throughout the whole camp, the 
twelve thousand soldiers spending their leisure hours in reading their 
Bibles, in the singing of psalms, and in religious conferences. Thus was 
trained that amazing armament, to whom victory seemed entailed,--whose 
soldiers combined the courage of the ancient Roman with the virtues of 
the private citizen, and have been well described as "uniting the most 
rigid discipline with the fiercest enthusiasm, and moving to victory with 
the precision of machines, while burning with the wildest fanaticism of 
crusaders." There were elements at work here that have seldom gone to the 
composition of armies. "Does the reader look upon it all as madness? 
Madness lies close by, as madness does to the highest wisdom in man's 
life always; but this is not mad! This dark element, it is the mother of 
the lightnings and the splendours; it is very sure this?" 
  It is no task of ours to follow the course of Cromwell in his rapid and 
terrible campaign, in which he descended upon Ireland "like the hammer of 
Thor," and by a few tremendous and almost exterminating strokes, as 
before the walls of Drogheda, spread universal terror throughout the 
garrisons of Ireland, saving more blood than if he had adopted a more 
feeble and hesitating course. His policy in Ireland finds its explanation 
in two circumstances,--the impression that he had come as the instrument 
of a just God to avenge the innocent blood of more than a hundred 
thousand Protestants,--and the conviction that, in repressing a rebellion 
which threatened the existence of the infant Commonwealth, the "iron 
hand," though the least amiable, was the most merciful, and would save 
the necessity of a wider though more prolonged vengeance. But our 
business is with Owen, whom we find meanwhile employed within the 
friendly walls of Dublin in preaching to "a numerous multitude of as 
thirsting people after the gospel as ever he conversed with," 
investigating the condition of the university, and devising measures for 
its extension and efficiency. His preaching was "not in vain," while his 
representations to Parliament led to measures which raised the university 
from its halfruinous condition, and obtained for it some of its most 
valuable immunities. In the course of nine months, Cromwell, whose career 
in Ireland had been that of the lightning followed by the shower, 
terrific yet beneficent, returned to England to receive the thanks of the 
Parliament and the people, and to be appointed General-in-chief of the 
armies of the Commonwealth; and Owen, mourning over the fact "that there 
was not one gospel preacher for every walled town in Ireland," was 
restored to his rejoicing flock at Coggeshall. 
  But the release which he was to enjoy was short. Cromwell had scarcely 
returned from Ireland, when the state of Scotland demanded his presence. 
That nation, which had begun the resistance to the tyranny of the 
Stuarts, and to the worse tyranny of Rome, had almost unanimously 
disapproved of the death of Charles, and now looked with jealousy and 
hostility upon the government of the Commonwealth. They had actually 
invited Charles from the midst of his debaucheries of Breda to become 
their king; and, deceived by his signing of the Covenant, were now 
meditating an attempt to restore him to his father's throne. In all this 
Cromwell saw, on the part of the best of the Scottish people, an honest 
and misguided zeal, which was aiming substantially at the same ends as 
himself; but he saw in it not the less the most imminent danger to the 
liberty, religion, and morality of England, and hastened to assert and 
establish in Scotland the authority of the Commonwealth. Simultaneously 
with this, an order passed the Commons requiring Joseph Carol and John 
Owen to attend on the Commander-general as ministers; and Owen was thus a 
second time torn away from his pastoral plans and studious toils to the 
society of camps, and the din and carnage of sieges and battlefields. 
Cromwell's motives for thus surrounding himself with the great preachers 
of his age have been variously represented, according to the general 
theory that has been formed of his character. Believing as we do in his 
religious sincerity, we cannot doubt that he felt, like other religious 
men, the powerful attraction of their intercourse. There was sound 
policy, besides, in seeking by this means to convince an age remarkable 
for its religious earnestness that he enjoyed the confidence and 
friendship of the chiefs of the religious world; and hence we find him at 
a later period securing the presence of John Howe at Whitehall, and 
aiming by repeated efforts to subdue the jealous penetration of Baxter. 
This latter motive, we cannot doubt, had its own influence in inducing 
him to take Carol and Owen with him to Scotland; and it is very probable, 
moreover, that, with all his passion for theological polemics, he foresaw 
that, in his anticipated discussions with the Scottish clergy, he would 
be all the better of these Puritan chiefs to help him at times in untying 
the Gordian knots which they were sure to present to him. 
  We are able to trace but a few of the steps of Owen in Scotland. He 
appears to have joined Cromwell at Berwick, where he preached from the 
text, Isa. 56:7, "For mine house shall be called an hour of prayer for 
all people;" and, as we conclude from a letter of Cromwell's, assisted, 
with "some other godly ministers," in drawing up a reply to the 
Declaration of the General Assembly, which had already been sent to 
Cromwell ere he could cross the borders. We next find him writing from 
Musselburgh to Lisle, one of the commissioners of the Great Seal, 
describing a skirmish between some of Cromwell's troops and those of 
"cautious" Leslie. Next, the battle of Dunbar has been fought. Cromwell 
is in possession of Edinburgh, but the castle still holds out against 
him, and the ministers of the city have sought protection within its 
walls. The pulpits of Edinburgh are consequently in the hands of 
Cromwell's preachers. Owen preached repeatedly in old St. Giles', and is 
listened to at first with wonder and jealousy, which gradually melt into 
kindlier feelings, as the multitude trace in his words a sweet savour of 
Christ. It is the opinion of many that Owen's hand is visible in the 
letters which passed between Cromwell and the governor of Edinburgh 
castle, on the offer of the Lord General to allow the ministers to come 
out and occupy their pulpits on the Sabbathday; when, on their somewhat 
suspicious and sulky refusal, Cromwell addressed them in that celebrated 
letter of which Carlyle sage, that the Scotch clergy never got such a 
reprimand since they first took ordination." Undoubtedly there are 
striking resemblances to Owen's turn of thoughts especially in the paper 
of "Queries," which abounds in "lumbering sentences with noble meanings" 
We next follow him with Cromwell to Glasgow, where Zachary Boyd thunders 
against the Lord-General in the old cathedral, and Cromwell listens with 
calm forbearance, and where a discussion takes place between Owen and the 
Scottish ministers, of which the following anecdote is told:--A young 
Scottish minister, named Hugh Binning, not yet twenty-six years of age, 
so managed the dispute as to confound Owen and the other English divines. 
Oliver, surprised and half-pleased, inquired, after the meeting was over, 
who this bold young man was; and being told that his name was Binning,-- 
"He has bound, well indeed," said he; "but,"laying his hand on his sword, 
"this will loose all again." The discussion, with Binning's victory, is 
not improbable; but the bad pun and the braggart threat are not like 
Oliver, and may safely be consigned to those other "anecdotes of Cromwell 
at Glasgow," of which Carlyle says, that "they are not to be repeated 
anywhere except in the nursery." 
  But long ere Cromwell's campaign in Scotland was over, and that last 
battle, in which he gained "Worcester's laureate wreath," had been 
fought, which drove Charles back to Breda, and reduced Scotland under the 
generous sway of the commonwealth, Owen had been permitted to return to 
his books and to his quiet pastorals in Essex. It was only a short 
breathing-time, however, before his connection with Coggeshall was loosed 
for ever. One morning he read, to his surprise, in the newspapers of the 
day, the following order:--"On the 18th March l651, the House, taking 
into consideration the worth and usefulness of John Owen, M.A., of 
Queen's College, ordered that he be settled in the deanery of Christ 
Church, in room of Dr Reynolds." A letter soon after followed this from 
the principal students of Christ Church, expressing their great 
satisfaction at the appointment. Cromwell before this had been chosen 
Chancellor of Oxford. And on the 9th of September of the following year, 
letters from Cromwell nominated Owen vice-chancellor of the university, 
and thus placed him at the head of that great and ancient seat of 
learning from which we have seen him, tell years before, walk forth an 
exile for conscience' sake. 
3 His Vice-Chancellorship 
  The office of dean of Christ Church involved in it the duty of 
presiding at all the meetings of the college, and delivering lectures in 
divinity; while that of vice-chancellor virtually committed to the hands 
of Owen the general government of the university. A charge of 
inconsistency has sometimes been brought against him, as an Independent, 
for accepting such offices, especially that of dean; and even some 
sentences of Milton have been adduced to give sanction to the complaint. 
But the whole charge proceeds on a mistake. It should be remembered that 
the University of Oxford during the Commonwealth shared in those changes 
which befell so many other institutions, and had ceased to be a mere 
appendage and buttress of Episcopacy, and that the office as held by Owen 
was separated from its ecclesiastical functions, and retained nothing, in 
fact, of Episcopacy except the name. It is quite true that the emoluments 
of the beanery were still drawn from the same sources as at an earlier 
period; but Owen, in common with many of the Independents and all the 
Presbyterians of his times, was not in principle opposed to the support 
of the teachers of religion by national funds. 
  His scruples in accepting office in Oxford, and especially in 
consenting to be raised to the high position of vice-chancellor, arose 
from other causes; and it needed all the authority of Cromwell, and all 
the influence of the senate, completely to overcome them. It required him 
to do violence to some of his best affections and strongest predilections 
to tear himself away from the studious days and the happy pastorate of 
Coggeshall; and perhaps it demanded a higher pitch of resolution still to 
undertake the government of a university which had been brought to the 
very brink of ruin by the civil wars, and from which, during the 
intervening years, it had very partially recovered. During those years of 
commotion, learning had almost been forgotten for arms; and Oxford, 
throwing itself with a more than chivalrous loyalty into the cause of 
Charles, had drained its treasury, and even melted its plate, in order to 
retrieve his waning fortunes. The consequence had been, that at the end 
of the civil war, when the cause of the Parliament triumphed, many of its 
halls and colleges were closed; others of them had been converted into 
magazines for stores and barracks for soldiers; the studious habits of 
its youth had been completely disturbed, and the university burdened with 
a debt of almost hopeless magnitude. Some of the worst of these evils 
still remained,--others of them were only partially diminished; and when 
we add to this the spirit of destructive Vandalism with which a noisy 
party began to regard those ancient seats of learning, the licentiousness 
and insubordination which the students had borrowed from the armies of 
the Royalists, as well as the jealousy with which Owen was regarded by 
the secret friends of Episcopacy, and by Presbyterians who had been 
displaced by Cromwell from high positions in order to give place to 
Independents, it is easy to see that it required no common courage to 
seize the helm at such a moment, to grapple with such varied and 
formidable difficulties, and to reduce such discordant elements to peace. 
Such was the work to which Owen now betook himself. 
  It is only too evident that even at the present day it requires, in the 
case of many, something like a mental effort against early prejudice, to 
conceive of this Puritan pastor occupying the lofty eminence to which he 
was now raised with a suitable amount of dignity and grace. Not only the 
author of "Hudibras," but even Clarendon and Hume, have written of the 
Puritans in the style of caricature, and cleverly confounding them under 
a common name with ignorant anal extravagant sectaries whom the Puritans 
all along condemned and disowned, have too long succeeded in representing 
the popular type of the Puritans as that of men of affected sanctity, 
pedantic and piebald dialect, sour temper, and unpolished manner. Those 
who indulge these ignorant mistake forget that if the Puritan preachers 
were thus utterly deficient in matters of taste and refinement, they had 
received their training at Oxford and Cambridge, and that the reflection 
must, therefore, in all fairness, be extended to those seminaries. They 
forget, moreover, as has been well remarked, that "it is more reasonable, 
and certainly much more generous, to form our judgment with regard to 
religious parties from the men among them who make their bequests to 
posterity, than from such as constitute the weakness of a body rather 
than its strength, and who die, as a matter of course, in the obscurity 
in which they have lived." 
  But it is remarkable, that all the leading men among the Puritan clergy 
were such as, even in the matter of external grace and polish, might have 
stood before kings. The native majesty of John Howe, refined by 
intercourse with families of noble birth, and his radiant countenance, as 
if formed "meliore luto", linger even in his portraits Philip Henry, the 
playmate of pincer, bore with him into his country parish that "unbought 
grace of life," which, in spite of his sterner qualities, attracted 
towards him the most polished families of his neighbourhood. Richard 
Baxter was the chosen associate of Sir Matthew Hale; and, contrary even 

(continued in part 3...)

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