(Thomson, Life of Dr. Owen. part 4)

never heard a man speak so well," was the future testimony of Sir Paul 
Ricaut, who had pressed into the crowd. The good intentions of the 
Protector were defeated; but, as an expression of his respect for the 
rabbi he ordered 200 pound to be paid to him out of the public treasury. 
  In the midst of these public events, Owen's pen had once more been 
turned to authorship by the immediate command of the Council of State. 
The catechisms of Biddle, the father of English Socinianism, had given 
vogue to the errors of that school; and though various writers of 
ability, such as Poole and Cheynel in England, and Cloppenburg, Arnold, 
and Maretz on the continent, had already remarked on them, it was deemed 
advisable that they should obtain a more complete and sifting exposure; 
and Owen was selected, by the high authority we have named, to undertake 
the task. His "Vindiciae Evangelicae," a work of seven hundred quarts 
pages, embracing all the great points of controversy between the Socinian 
and the Calvinist, was the fruit of this command; and was certainly a far 
more suitable and efficient way of extinguishing the poor heresiarch, 
than the repeated imprisonments to which he was subjected. Dr Owen, 
however, does not confine himself to the writings of Biddle, but includes 
in his review the Racovian catechism, which was the confession of the 
foreign Socinians of that age; and the Annotations of Grotius,--which, 
though nowhere directly teaching Socinian opinions, are justly charged by 
him with explaining away those passages on which the peculiar doctrines 
of the Gospel lean for their support, and thus, by extinguishing one 
light after another, leaving you at length in midnight darkness. An 
accomplished modern writer has pointed out a mortifying identity between 
the dogmas of our modern Pantheists and those of the Buddhists of India. 
It would be easy to show that the discoveries of our modern Neologists 
and Rationalists are in truth the resurrection of the errors of Biddle, 
Smalcius, and Moscorovius. Again and again, in those writings, which have 
slumbered beneath the dust of two centuries, the student meets with the 
same speculations, supported by the same reasonings and interpretations, 
that have startled him in the modern German treatise, by their impious 
  You pass into the body of this elaborate work through one of those 
learned porticoes in which our author delights, and in which the history 
of Socinianism is traced through its many forms and phases, from the days 
of Simon Magus to his own. No part of this history in of more permanent 
value than his remarks on the controversial tactics of Socinians; among 
which he especially notices their objection to the use of terms not to be 
found in Scripture; and to which he replies, that "though such terms may 
not be of absolute necessity to express the things themselves to the 
minds of believers, they may yet be necessary to defend the truth from 
the opposition and craft of seducers;" their cavilling against 
evangelical doctrines rather than stating any positive opinions of their 
own, and, when finding it inconvenient to oppose, or impossible to refute 
a doctrine, insisting on its not being fundamental. How much of the 
secret of error in religion is detected in the following advice: "Take 
heed of the snare of Satan in affecting eminency by singularity. It is 
good to strive to excel, and to go before one another in knowledge and in 
light, as in holiness and obedience. To do this in the road is difficult. 
Many, finding it impossible to emerge into any consideration by walking 
in the beaten path of truth, and yet not able to conquer the itch of 
being accounted "tines megaloi", turn aside into byways, and turn the 
eyes of men to them by scrambling over hedge and ditch, when the sober 
traveller is not at all regarded." And the grand secret of continuing in 
the faith grounded and settled, is expressed in the following wise 
sentences: "That direction in this kind which with me is "instar omnium", 
is for a diligent endeavour to have the power of the truths professed and 
contended for abiding upon our hearts;--that we may not contend for 
notions, but what we have a practical acquaintance with in our own souls. 
When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the 
mind embraceth,--when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in 
us,--when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense 
of the things abides in our hearts, when we have communion with God in 
the doctrine we contend for,--then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of 
God against all the assaults of men." 
  This secret communion with God in the doctrines contended for was the 
true key to Owen's own steadfastness amid all those winds of doctrine 
which unsettled every thing but what was rooted in the soil. We have an 
illustration of this in the next treatise, which he soon after gave to 
the world, and in which he passes from the lists of controversy to the 
practical exhibition of the Gospel as a life-power. It was entitled, "On 
the mortification of Sin in Believers;" and contains the substance of 
some sermons which he had preached on Rom.8:13. He informs us that his 
chief motives for this publication were, a wish to escape from the region 
of public debate, and to produce something of more general use, that 
right seem a fruit "of choice, not of necessity;" and also, "to provide 
an antidote for the dangerous mistakes of some that of late years had 
taken upon them to give directions for the mortification of sin, who, 
being unacquainted with the mystery of the gospel and the efficacy of the 
death of Christ, have anew imposed the yoke of a self-wrought-out 
mortification on the necks of their disciples, which neither they nor 
their forefathers were ever able to bear." We have no means of knowing 
what were the treatises to which Owen here refers; but it is well known 
that Baxter mind at an early period received an injurious legal bias from 
a work of this kind; nor is even Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living" free from 
the fault of minute prescription of external rules and "bodily exercise, 
which profiteth little," instead of bringing the mind into immediate 
contact with those great truths which inspire and transform whatever they 
touch. Nor have there been wanting teachers, in any age of the church, 
      "-- do but skin and film the ulcerous place, 
      While rank corruption, mining all within, 
      Infects unseen." 
  Owen's work is a noble illustration of the Gospel method of 
sanctification, as we believe it to be a living reflection of his own 
experience. In his polemical works he was like the lecturer on the 
materia medica; but here he is the skilful physician, applying the 
medicine to the cure of soul-sickness. And it is interesting to find the 
ample evidence which this work affords, that, amid the din of theological 
controversy, the engrossing and perplexing activities of a high public 
station, and the chilling damps of a university, he was yet living near 
God, and, like Jacob amid the stones of the wilderness, maintaining 
secret intercourse with the eternal and invisible. 
  To the affairs of Oxford we must now return for a little. In the midst 
of his multifarious public engagements, and the toils of a most ponderous 
authorship, Owen's thoughts had never been turned from the university, 
and his efforts for its improvement, encouraged by the Protector and his 
council, as well as by the cooperation of the heads of colleges, had been 
rewarded by a surprising prosperity. Few things, indeed, are more 
interesting than to look into the records of Oxford at this period, as 
they have been preserved by Anthony Wood and others, and to mark the 
constellation of great names among its fellows and students; some of whom 
were already in the height of their renown, and others, with a strangely 
varied destiny awaiting them, were brightening into a fame which was to 
shed its lustre on the coming age. The presiding mind at this period was 
Owen himself, who, from the combined influence of station and character, 
obtained from all around him willing deference; while associated with him 
in close friendship, in frequent conference, and learned research, which 
was gradually embodied in many folios, was Thomas Goodwin, the president 
of Magdalene College. Stephen Charnock had already carried many honours, 
and given token of that Saxon vigour of intellect and ripe devotion which 
were afterwards to take shape in his noble treatise on the "Divine 
Attributes." Dr Pocock sat in the chair of Arabic, unrivalled as an 
Orientalist; and Dr Seth Ward taught mathematics, already noted as an 
astronomer, and hereafter to be less honorably noted as so supple a 
timeserver, that, "amid all the changes of the times he never broke his 
bones." Robert Boyle had fled hither, seeking in its tranquil shades 
opportunity for undisturbed philosophic studies, and finding in all 
nature food for prayer; and one more tall and stately than the rest might 
be seen now amid the shady walks of Magdalene College, musing on the 
"Blessedness of the Righteous," and now in the recesses of its libraries, 
"ensphering the spirit of Plato," and amassing that learning and 
excogitating that divine philosophy which were soon to be transfigured 
and immortalized in his "Living Temple." Daniel Whitby, the acute 
annotator on the New Testament, and the ablest champion of Arminisnism, 
now adored the roll of Oxford,--Christopher Wren, whose architectural 
genius has reared its own monument in the greatest of England's 
cathedrals,--William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, and the father of 
the gentlest and most benignant of all our Christian sects,--John Locke, 
the founder of the greatest school of English metaphysics, to whom was to 
belong the high honour of basing toleration on the principles of 
philosophy,--William South, the pulpit satirist, whom we alternately 
admire for his brawny intellect and matchless style, and despise for 
their prostration to the lowest purposes of party,--Thomas Ken, the 
future bishop of Bath and Wells, whose holiness drew forth the willing 
homage of the Puritans, and whose conscientiousness as a nonjuror was 
long after to be proved by his sufferings in the Tower,--Philip Henry, 
now passing to the little conference of praying students, and now 
receiving from Dr Owen praises which only make him humbler, already 
delighting in those happy alliterations and fine conceits which were to 
be gathered from his lips by his admiring son, and embalmed in the 
transparent amber of that son's immortal Commentary,--and Joseph Alleine, 
who, in his "Alarm to the Unconverted," was to produce a work which the 
church of God will not willingly let die, and was to display the spirit 
of a martyr amid the approaching cruelties of the Restoration, and the 
deserted hearths and silent churches of St. Bartholomew's Day. 
  But events were beginning to transpire in the political world which 
were to bring 0wen's tenure of the vice-chancellorship to a speedy close. 
He had hitherto befriended Cromwell in all his great measures, with the 
strong conviction that the liberties and general interests of the nation 
were bound up with his supremacy. He had even, on occasion of the risings 
of the Royalists under colonel Penruddock in the west, busied himself in 
securing the attachment of the university, and in raising a troop of 
horse for the defense of the county, until one of his Royalist revilers, 
enraged at his infectious zeal, described him as "riding up and down like 
a spiritual Abaddon, with white powder in his hair and black in his 
pocket." But when a majority of the Parliament proposed to bestow upon 
Cromwell the crown and title of king, and when the Protector was 
evidently not averse to the entreaties of his Parliament, Owen began to 
suspect the workings of an ambition which, if not checked, would 
introduce a new tyranny, and place in jeopardy those liberties which so 
much had been done and suffered to secure. He therefore joined with 
Colonel Desborough, Fleetwood, and the majority of the army, in opposing 
these movements, and even drew up the petition which is known to have 
defeated the measure, and constrained Cromwell to decline the perilous 
  Many circumstances soon made it evident, that by this bold step Dr Owen 
had so far estranged from himself the affection of Cromwell. Up to this 
time he had continued to be, of all the ministers of his times, the most 
frequently invited to preach on those great occasions of public state 
which it was usual in those days to grace with a religious service. But 
when, soon after this occurrence, Cromwell was inaugurated into his 
office as Protector, at Westminster Hall, with all the pomp and splendour 
of a coronation, those who were accustomed to watch how the winds of 
political favour blew, observed that Lockyer and Dr Manton were the 
divines who officiated at the august ceremonial; and that Owen was not 
even there as an invited guest. This was significant, and the decisive 
step soon followed. On the 3rd of July Cromwell resigned the office of 
chancellor of the university; on the 18th day of the same month, his son 
Richard was appointed his successor; and six weeks afterwards Dr Owen was 
displaced from the vice-chancellorship, and Dr Conant, a Presbyterian, 
and rector of Exeter College, nominated in his stead. 
  Few things in Owen's public life more became him than the manner in 
which he resigned the presidency of Oxford, and yielded up the academic 
fasces into the hands of another. He "knew both how to abound, and how to 
be abased." There is no undignified insinuation of ungracious usage; no 
loud assertion of indifference, to cover the bitterness of chagrin; no 
mock humility; but a manly reference to the service which he was 
conscious of having rendered to the university, with a generous 
appreciation of the excellencies of the friend to whom the government was 
now to be transferred. In his parting address to the university, after 
stating the number of persons that had been matriculated and graduated 
during his administration, he continues: "Professors' salaries, lost for 
many years, have been recovered and paid; some offices of respectability 
have been maintained; the rights and privileges of the university have 
been defended against all the efforts of its enemies; the treasury is 
tenfold increased; many of every rank in the university have been 
promoted to various honours and benefices; new exercises have been 
introduced and established; old ones have been duly performed; 
reformation of manners has been diligently studied, in spite of the 
grumbling of certain profligate brawlers; labours have been numberless; 
besides submitting to the most enormous expense, often when brought to 
the brink of death on your account, I have hated these limbs, and this 
feeble body, which was ready to desert my mind; the reproaches of the 
vulgar have been disregarded, the envy of others has been overcome: in 
these circumstances I wish you all prosperity, and bid you farewell. I 
congratulate myself on a successor who can relieve me of this burden; and 
you on one who is able completely to repair any injury which your affairs 
may have suffered through our inattention..... But as I know not whither 
the thread of my discourse might lead me, I here cut it short. I seek 
again my old labours, my usual watchings, my interrupted studies. As for 
you, gentlemen of the university, may you be happy, and fare you well." 
4 His Retirement and Last Days 
  A wish has sometimes been expressed, that men who, like Owen, have 
contributed so largely to the enriching of our theological literature, 
could have been spared the endless avocations of public life, and allowed 
to devote themselves almost entirely to authorship. But the wisdom of 
this sentiment is very questionable. Experience seems to testify that a 
certain amount of contact with the business of practical life is 
necessary to the highest style of thought and authorship; and that minds, 
when left to undisturbed literary leisure, are apt to degenerate into 
habits of diseased speculation and sickly fastidiousness. Most certainly 
the works that have come from men of monastic habits have done little for 
the world, compared with the writings of those who leave ever been ready 
to obey the voice which summoned them away from tranquil studies to 
breast the storms and guide the movements of great social conflicts. The 
men who have lived the most earnestly for their own age, have also lived 
the most usefully for posterity. Owen's retirement from the 
vice-chancellorship may indeed be regarded as a most seasonable relief 
from the excess of public engagement; but it may be confidently 
questioned whether he would have written so much or so well, had his 
intellect and heart been, in any great degree, cut off from the stimulus 
which the struggles and stern realities of life gave to them. This is, 
accordingly, the course through which we are now rapidly to follow him,-- 
to the end of his days continuing to display an almost miraculous 
fertility of authorship, that is only equalled by that of his illustrious 
compeer, Richard Baxter; and, at the same time, taking no second part in 
the great ecclesiastical movements of that most eventful age. 
  The next great public transaction in which we find Dr Owen engaged, was 
the celebrated meeting of ministers and delegates from the Independent 
Churches, for the purpose of preparing a confession of their faith and 
order, commonly known by the name of the Savoy Assembly or Synod. The 
Independents had greatly flourished during the Protectorate; and many 
circumstances rendered such a meeting desirable. The Presbyterian members 
of the Westminster Assembly had often pressed on them the importance of 
such a public and formal exposition of their sentiments. Their 
Independent brethren in New England had set them the example ten years 
before; and the frequent misrepresentations to which they were exposed, 
especially through their being confounded with extravagant sectaries who 
sheltered themselves beneath the common name of Independents, as well as 
the religious benefits that were likely to accrue from mutual conference 
and comparison of views, appeared strongly to recommend such a measure. 
"We confess," say they, "that from the very first, all, or at least the 
generality of our churches, have been in a manner like so many ships, 
though holding forth the same general colours, launched singly, and 
sailing apart and alone on the vast ocean of these tumultuous times, and 
exposed to every wind of doctrine, under no other conduct than that of 
the Word and Spirit, and their particular elders and principal brethren, 
without association among themselves, or so much as holding out common 
lights to others, whereby to know where they were." 
  It was with considerable reluctance, however, that Cromwell yielded his 
sanction to the calling of such a meeting. He remembered the anxious 
jealousy with which the proceedings of the Westminster Assembly had been 
watched, and probably had his own fears that what now began in 
theological discussion might end in the perilous canvassing of public 
measures. But his scruples were at length overcome,--circulars were 
issued, inviting the churches to send up their pastors and delegates, and 
more than two hundred brethren appeared in answer to the summons. They 
met in a building in the Strand, which was now commonly devoted to the 
accommodation of the officers of Cromwell's court, but which had formerly 
been a convent and a hospital, and originally the palace of the Duke of 
Savoy, from whom it took its name. A committee, in which Owen and Goodwin 
evidently bore the burden of the duties, prepared a statement of doctrine 
each morning, which was laid before the Assembly, discussed, and 
approved. They found, to their delight, that "though they had been 
launched singly, they had all been steering their coup by the same chart, 
and been bound for one and the same port; and that upon the general 
search now made, the same holy and blessed truths of all sorts which are 
current and warrantable among the other churches of Christ in the world, 
had been their lading." It is an interesting fact, that, with the 
exception of its statements on church order, the articles of the Savoy 
Confession bear a close resemblance to those of the famous Confession of 
the Westminster divines,--in most places retaining its very words. This 
was a high and graceful tribute to the excellence of that noble commend. 
And though Baxter, irritated by the form of some of its statements, wrote 
severely against the Savoy Assembly, yet a spirit of extraordinary 
devotion appears to have animated and sustained its conferences. "There 
was the most eminent presence of the Lord," says an eyewitness, "with 
those who were then assembled, that ever I knew since I had a being." 
And, as the natural consequence of this piety, there was an enlarged 
charity towards other churches "holding the Head." In the preface to the 
Confession, which Owen is understood to have written, and from which we 
have already made some beautiful extracts, this blessed temper shines 
forth in language that seems to have anticipated the standing-point to 
which the living churches of our own times are so hopefully pointing. We 
are reminded in one place that "the differences between Presbyterians and 
Independents are differences between fellow-servants;" and in another 
place, the principle is avowed, that "churches consisting of persons 
sound in the faith and of good conversation, ought not to refuse 
communion with each other, though they walk not in all things according 
to the same rule of church order." It is well known that the Savoy 
Confession has never come into general use among the Independents; but 
there is reason to think that its first publication had the best effects; 
and in all likelihood the happy state of things which Philip Henry 
describes as distinguishing this period is referable, in part at least, 
to the assurance of essential unity which the Savoy Confession afforded. 
"There was a great change," says he, "in the tempers of good people 
throughout the nation, and a mighty tendency to peace and unity, as if 
they were by consent weary of their long clashings." 
  What would have been the effects of these proceedings upon the policy 
of the Protector, had his life been prolonged, we can now only surmise. 
Ere the Savoy Assembly had commenced its deliberations, Oliver Cromwell 
was struggling with a mortal distemper in the palace of Whitewall. The 
death of his favourite daughter, Lady Claypole, as well as the cares of 
his government, had told at length upon his iron frame; and on September 
3, 1658, the night of the most awful storm that had ever shaken the 
island, and the anniversary of some of his greatest battles, Oliver 
Cromwell passed into the eternal world. It is no duty of ours to describe 
the character of this wonderful man; but our references to Owen have 
necessarily brought us into frequent contact with his history; and we 
have not sought to conceal our conviction of his religious sincerity and 
our admiration of his greatness. Exaggerate his faults as men may, the 
hypocritical theory of his character, so long the stereotyped 
representation of history, cannot be maintained. Those who refuse him all 
credit for religion must explain to us how his hypocrisy escaped the 
detection of the most religious men of his times, who, like Owens, had 
the best opportunities of observing him. Those who accuse him of 
despotism must tell us how it was that England, under his sway, enjoyed 
more liberty than it had ever done before. Those who see in his character 
no qualities of generous patriotism, and few even of enlarged 
statesmanship, must reconcile this with the fact of his developing the 
internal resources of England to an extent which had never been 
approached by any previous ruler,--raising his country to the rank of a 
first power in Europe, until his very name became a terror to despots, 
and a shield to those who, like the bleeding Vaudois in the valleys of 
Piedmont, appealed to his compassion. 
  Owen, and other leading men among the Puritans, have been represented, 
by writers such as Burnet, as offering up the most fanatical prayers for 
the Protector's recovery; and after his death, on occasion of a fast, in 
the presence of Richard and the other members of his family, as almost 
irreverently reproaching God for his removal. It would be too much to 
affirm, that clothing extravagant or extreme was spoken, even by 
eminently good men, at a crisis so exciting; but there is every reason to 
think that Owen was not present at the deathbed of the Protector at all; 
and Burnet's statement, when traced to its source, is found to have 
originated in an impression of Tillotson's, who was as probably mistaken 
as otherwise. Vague gossip must not be received as the material of 
biography. At the same time, it cannot be doubted that the death of 
Cromwell filled Owen and his friends with profound regret and serious 
apprehension. His life and power had been the greed security for their 
religious liberties; and now by his death that security was dissolved. 
Cromwell during his lifetime had often predicted, "They will bring all to 
confusion again;" and now that his presiding hand was removed, the lapse 
of a little time was sufficient to show that he had too justly forecast 
the future. Ere we glance, however, at the rapid changes of those coming 
years, we must once more turn to Owen's labours as an author.  
  In 1657 he published one of his best devotional treatises,--"Of 
Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, each Person 
distinctly, in Love, Grace, consolation, etc." It forms the substance of 
a series of sermons preached by him at Oxford during his 
vice-chancellorship, and is another evidence of his "close walk with Gad" 
during the excitements and engagements of that high official position. 
There is, no doubt, some truth in the remark, that he carries out the 
idea of distinct communion between the believer and each of the persons 
of the Godhead to an extent for which there is no scriptural precedent; 
and this arises from another habit, observable in some degree even in 
this devotional composition,--that of making the particular subject on 
which he treats the centre around which he gathers all the great truths 
of the Gospel; but, when these deductions have been made, what a rich 
treasure is this work of Owen's! He leads us by green pastures and still 
waters, and lays open the exhaustless springs of the Christian's hidden 
life with Christ in God. It is easy to understand how some parts of it 
should have been unintelligible, and should even have appeared incoherent 
to persons whose creed was nothing more than an outward badge; and 
therefore we are not surprised that it should have provoked the scoffing 
remarks of a Rational ecclesiastic twenty years afterwards; but to one 
who possesses even a faint measure of spiritual life, we know few 
exercises more congenial or salutary than its perusal. It is like passing 
from the dusty and beaten path into a garden full of the most fragrant 
flowers, from which you return still bearing about your person some parts 
of its odours, that reveal where you have been. And those who read the 
book with somewhat of this spiritual susceptibility, will sympathize with 
the glowing words of Daniel Burgess regarding it: "Alphonsus, king of 
Spain, is said to have found food and physic in reading Livy; and 
Ferdinand, king of Sicily, in reading Quintus Curtius;--but you have here 
nobler entertainment, vastly richer dainties, incomparably more sovereign 
medicines: I had almost said, the very highest of angel's food is here 
set before you; and, as Pliny speaks, 'Permista deliciis auxilia,'-- 
things that minister unto grace and comfort, to holy life and liveliness" 
  In the same year Owen was engaged in an important and protracted 
controversy on the subject of schism, which drew forth from him a 
succession of publications, and exposed him to the assaults of many 
adversaries. Foster has sarcastically remarked on the great convenience 
of having a number of words that will answer the purposes of ridicule or 
reprobation, without having any precise meaning attached to them; and the 
use that has commonly been made of the obnoxious term, "Schism," is an 
illustration in point. Dominant religious parties have ever been ready to 
hurl this hideous weapon at those who have separated from them, from 
whatever cause; and the phrase has derived its chief power to injure from 
its vagueness. The Church of Rome has flung it at the Churches of the 
Reformation, and the Reformed Churches that stand at different degrees of 
distance from Rome, have been too ready to cast it at each other. Owen 
and his friends, now began to feel the injurious effects of this, in the 
frequent application of the term to themselves; and he was induced, in 
consequence, to write on the subject, with the view especially of 
distinguishing between the scriptural and the ecclesiastical use of the 
term, and, by simply defining it, to deprive it of its mischievous power. 
This led to his treatise, "Of Schism; the true nature of it discovered, 
and considered with reference to the present differences in region:" in 
which he shows that schism, as described in Scripture, consists in 
"causeless differences and contentions amongst the members of a 
particular church, contrary to that love, prudence, and forbearance, 
which are required of them to be exercised among themselves, and towards 
one another." From this two consequences followed;-- that separation from 
any church was not in its own nature schism; and that those churches 
which, by their corruption or tyranny, rendered separation necessary, 
were the true schismatics: so that, as Vincent Alsop wittily remarked, 
"He that undertakes to play this great gun, had need to be very careful 
and spunge it well, lest it fire at home." It is one of Dr Owen's best 
controversial treatises, being exhaustive, and yet not marked by that 
discursiveness which is the fault of some of his writings, and bringing 
into play some of his greatest excellencies as a writer,--his remarkable 
exegetical talent, his intimate knowledge of Scripture, and mastery of 
the stores of ecclesiastical history. Dr Hammond replied to him from 
among the Episcopalians, and Cawdrey from among the Presbyterians,--a 
stormy petrel, with whose spirit, Owen remarks, the Presbyterians in 
general had no sympathy; but Owen remained unquestionable master of the 
  It was not thus with the controversy which we have next to describe. 
Owen had prepared a valuable little essay,--"Of the Divine Original, 
Authority, Self-evidencing Light and Power of the Scriptures; with an 
answer to that inquiry, How we know the Scriptures to be the word of God" 
the principal design of which, as its title so far indicates, was to 
prove that, independently altogether of its external evidence, the Bible 
contains, in the nature of its truths and in their efficacy on the mind, 
satisfactory evidence of the divine source from which it has emanated;-- 
an argument which was afterwards nobly handled by Halyburton, and which 
has recently been illustrated and illuminated by Dr Chalmers with his 
characteristic eloquence, in one of the chapters of his "Theological 
Institutes" In this essay he had laid down the position, that "as the 
Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were immediately and entirely 
given out by God himself,--his mind being in them represented to us 
without the least interveniency of such mediums and ways as were capable 
of giving change or alteration to the least iota or syllable,--so, by his 
good and merciful providential dispensation, in his love to his Word and 
church, his Word as first given out by him is preserved unto us entire in 
the original languages." It happened that while this essay was in the 
press, the Prolegomella and Appendix of Walton's invaluable and immortal 
work, the "London Polyglott," came into Owen's hands. But when he glanced 
at the formidable array of various readings, which was presented by 
Walton and his coadjutors as the result of their collation of manuscripts 
and versions, he became alarmed for his principles, imagined the 
authority of the Scriptures to be placed in imminent jeopardy, and, in an 
essay which he entitled, "A Vindication of the Purity and Integrity of 
the Hebrew and Greek Texts of the Old and New Testaments, in some 
considerations on the Prolegomena and Appendix to the late Biblia 
Polyglotta," rashly endeavoured to prove that Walton had greatly 
exaggerated the number of various readings, and insinuated his 
apprehension, that if Walton's principles were admitted, they would lead, 
by a very direct course, to Popery or Infidelity. It is needless to say 
how undeniable is the fact of various readings; how utterly groundless 
were the fears which Dr Owen expressed because of them; and how much the 
labours of learned biblicists, in the region which was so nobly 
cultivated by Walton and his associates, have confirmed, instead of 
disturbing our confidence in the inspired canon. And yet it is not 
difficult to understand how the same individual, who was unsurpassed, 
perhaps unequalled, in his own age in his knowledge of the subject-matter 
of revelation, should have been comparatively uninformed on questions 
which related to the integrity of the sacred text itself. The error of 
Owen consisted in making broad assertions on a subject on which he 
acknowledged himself to be, after all, but imperfectly informed; and, 
from a mere a priori ground, challenging facts that were sustained by 
very abundant evidence, and charging those facts with the most revolting 
consequences. Let those theologians be warned by it, who, on the ground 
of preconceived notions and incorrect interpretations of Scripture, have 
called in question some of the plainest discoveries of science; and be 
assured that truth, come from what quarter it may, can never place the 
Word of God in jeopardy. 
  Walton saw that he had the advantage of Owen, and in "The Considerator 
considered, and the Biblia Polyglotta Vindicated," successfully defended 
his position, and did what he could to hold Owen up to the ridicule of 
the learned world. Though he was Owen's victor in this controversy, yet 
the arrogance of his bearing excites the suspicion that something more 
than learned zeal bore him into the contest, and that the exasperated 
feelings of the ecclesiastic made him not unwilling to humble this leader 
and champion of the Puritans in the dust. The respective merits of the 
two combatants in this contest, which excited so much commotion in the 
age in which it occurred, are admirably remarked on by Dr Chalmers: "The 
most interesting collision upon this question that I know of, between 
unlike men of unlike minds, was that between the most learned of our 
Churchmen on the one hand, Brian Walton, author, or rather editor of the 
'London Polyglots,' and the most talented and zealous of our sectarians 
on the other, Dr John Owen. The latter adventured himself most rashly 
into a combat, and under a false alarm for the results of the erudition 
of the former; and the former retorted contemptuously upon his 
antagonist, as he would upon a mystic or enthusiastic devotee. The 
amalgamation of the two properties thus arrayed in hostile conflict, 
would have just made up a perfect theologian. It would have been the 
wisdom of the letter in alliance with the wisdom of the spirit; instead 
of which I know not what was most revolting,-- the lordly insolence of 
the prelate, or the outrageous violence of the Puritan. In the first 
place, it was illiterate in Owen, to apprehend that the integrity of the 
Scripture would be unsettled by the exposure, in all their magnitude and 
multitude, of its various readings; but in the second place, we stand in 
doubt of Walton's spirit and his seriousness, when he groups and 
characterizes as the new-light men and ranting enthusiasts of these days, 
those sectaries, many of whom, though far behind him in the lore of 
theology as consisting in the knowledge of its vocables, were as far 
before him in acquaintance with the subject-matter of theology, as 
consisting of its doctrines, and of their application to the wants and 
the principles of our moral nature." 
  About the time of his emerging from this unfortunate controversy, Owen 
gave to the world his work on Temptation,--another of those masterly 
treatises in which he "brings the doctrines of theology to bear on the 
wants and principles of our moral nature," and from which whole 
paragraphs flash upon the mind of the reader with an influence that makes 
him feel as if they had been written for himself alone. 
  In his preface to that work, Owen (no doubt reflecting his impressions 
of public events) speaks of "providential dispensations, in reference to 
the public concernments of these nations, as perplexed and entangled,-- 
the footsteps of God lying in the deep, where his paths are not known." 
And certainly the rapid and turbulent succession of changes that took 
place soon after the removal of Cromwell's presiding genius from the 
helm, might well fill him with deepening anxiety and alarm. These changes 

(continued in part 5...)

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