(Thomson, Life of Dr. Owen. part 5)

it is not our province minutely to trace. Richard's feeble hand, as is 
well known, proved itself unfit to control the opposing elements of the 
state; and a few months saw him return not unwillingly, to the 
unambitious walks of private life. Owen has been charged with talking 
part in the schemes which drove Richard from the Protectorate; but the 
charge proceeded upon a mere impression of Dr Manton's, produced from 
hearing the fragment of a conversation, and was repeatedly and 
indignantly denied by Owen during his life. Then followed the recalling 
of that remnant of the Long Parliament which had been dispersed by 
Cromwell,--a measure which Owen advised, as, on the whole, the most 
likely to secure the continuance of an unrestricted liberty. But the 
Parliament, unwilling to obey the dictation of a dominant party in the 
Army, was once more dispersed by force, while the army itself began to be 
divided into ambitious factions. A new danger threatened from the north 
general Monk, marking the state of things in England, and especially the 
divided condition of the army, was making preparations to enter England. 
What were his designs? At one period he had befriended the Independents, 
but latterly he had sided with the powerful body of the Presbyterians. 
Would he now, then, endeavour to set up a new Protectorate, favouring the 
Presbyterians and oppressing other sects or would he throw his sword into 
the scale of the Royalists, and bring back the Stuarts? A deputation of 
Independent ministers, consisting of Carol and others, was sent into 
Scotland, bearing a letter to Monk that had been written by Owen, 
representing to him the injustice of his entering England, and the danger 
to which it would expose their most precious liberties. But the deputies 
returned, unable to influence his movements, or even to penetrate his 
ultimate designs. Owen and his friends next endeavoured to arouse the 
army to a vigorous resistance of Monk, and even offered to raise 100,000 
pounds among the Independents for their assistance;--but they found the 
army divided and dispirited; and Monk, gradually approaching London, 
entered it at length, not only unresisted, but welcomed by thousands, the 
Long Parliament having again found courage to resume its sittings. In a 
short while the Long Parliament was finally dissolved by its own content, 
and soon after the Convention Parliament assembled. Monk at length threw 
off his hitherto impenetrable disguise, and ventured to introduce letters 
from Charles Stuart. It was voted, at his instigation, that the ancient 
constitution of King, Lords, and Commons, should be restored, and Charles 
invited back to the throne of his ancestors; and the great majority of 
the nation, weary of the years of faction and turbulence, hailed the 
change with joy. But in the enthusiasm of the moment, no means were taken 
to secure an adjustment of those vital questions which had been agitated 
between the people and the crown. The act, therefore, which restored the 
king, restored the laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, to the state in 
which they had been at the commencement of the war, reestablished the 
hierarchy, and constituted all classes of separatists a proscribed class; 
and Owen and his party had little to trust to for the continuance of 
their religious liberties but the promise of Charles at Breda, that he 
"would have a respect to tender consciences." A little time sufficed to 
show that the king's word was but a miserable security; and the beautiful 
words of Baxter now began to be fulfilled in their darkest part: 
"Ordinarily, God would have vicissitudes of summer and winter, day and 
night, that the church may grow externally in the summer of prosperity, 
and internally and radically in the winter of adversity; yet usually 
their night is longer than their day, and that day itself has its storms 
and tempests." The night was now coming to the Puritans. 
  A few months before the restoration of Charles, Owen had been displaced 
from the beanery of Christ Church, and thus his last official connection 
with Oxford severed. He now retired to his native village of Stadham in 
the neighbourhood, where he had become the proprietor of a small estate. 
During his vice-chancellorship, it had been his custom to preach in this 
place on the afternoons of those Sabbaths in which he was not employed at 
St. Mary's; and a little congregation which he had gathered by this means 
now joyfully welcomed him among them as their pastor. It was probably 
while at Stadham that he finished the preparation of one of his most 
elaborate theological works, whose title will supply a pretty accurate 
idea at once of its general plan and of its remarkable variety of 
matter,-- "Theologoumena, etc.; or, six books on the nature, rise, 
progress, and study of true theology. In which, also, the origin and 
growth of true and false religious worship, and the more remarkable 
declensions and restorations of the church are traced from their first 
sources. To which are added digressions concerning universal grace,--the 
origin of the sciences,--notes of the Roman Church,--the origin of 
letters,-- the ancient Hebrew letters,--Hebrew punctuation,--versions of 
the Scriptures,--Jewish rites," etc. It is matter of regret that the 
"Theologoumena" has hitherto been locked up in the Latin tongue; for 
though parts have been superseded by more recent works, there is no book 
in the English language that occupies the wide field over which Owen 
travels with his usual power, and scatters around him his learned stores. 
  In all likelihood Owen hoped that he would be permitted to remain 
unmolested in his quiet village, and that his very obscurity would prove 
his protection; but he had miscalculated the leniency of the new rulers. 
An act passed against the Quakers, declared it illegal for more than five 
persons to assemble in any unauthorized place for religious worship; and 
this act admitting of application to all separatists, soon led to the 
expulsion of Owen from his charge, and to the dispersion of his little 
flock. In a little while he saw himself surrounded by many companions in 
tribulation. The Presbyterians, who had shown such eagerness for the 
restoration of Charles to his throne, naturally expected that such 
measures would be taken as would comprehend them within the 
establishment, without doing violence to their conscientious 
difficulties; and Charles and his ministers flattered the hope so long as 
they thought it unsafe to despise it; but it was not long ere the Act of 
Uniformity drove nearly two thousand of them from their churches into 
persecution and poverty, and brought once more into closer fellowship 
with Owen those excellent men whom he had continued to love and esteem in 
the midst of all their mutual differences. 
  Sir Edward Hyde, the future Lord Clarendon, was now lord chancellor, 
and the most influential member of the government, and means were used to 
obtain an interview between Owen and him, with the view, it is probable, 
of inducing him to relax the growing severity of his measures against the 
Nonconformists. But the proud minister was inexorable. He insisted that 
Owen should abstain from preaching; but at the one time, not ignorant of 
the great talents of the Puritan, strongly urged him to employ his pen at 
the present juncture in writing against Popery. Owen did not comply with 
the first part of the injunction, but continued to preach in London and 
elsewhere, to little secret assemblies, and even at times more publicly, 
when the vigilance of informers was relaxed, or the winds of persecution 
blew for a little moment less fiercely. But circumstances soon put it in 
his power to comply with the latter part of it; and those circumstances 
are interesting, both as illustrative of the charter of Owen and of the 
spirit and tendencies of the times. 
  John Vincent Cane, a Franciscan friar, had published a book entitled, 
"Fiat Lux; or, a Guide in Differences of Religion betwixt Papist and 
Protestant, Presbyterian and Independent;" in which, under the guise of 
recommending moderation and charity, he invites men over to the Church of 
Rome, as the only infallible remedy for all church divisions. The work 
falling in to some extent with the current of feeling in certain 
quarters, had already gone through two impressions ere it reached the 
hands of Owen, and is believed to have been sent to him at length by 
Clarendon. Struck with the subtile and pernicious character of the work, 
whose author he describes as "a Naphtali speaking goodly words, but while 
his voice was Jacob's voice, his hands were the hands of Esau," Owen set 
himself to answer it, and soon produced his "animadversions on Fiat Lux, 
by a Protestant;" which so completely exposed its sophistries and hidden 
aims, as to make the disconcerted friar lose his temper. The friar 
replied in a "Vindication of Fiat Lux,"--in which he betrayed a 
vindictive wish to detect his opponent, and bring upon him the resentment 
of those in power; describing him as "a part of that dismal tempest which 
had borne all before it,--not only church and state, but reason, right, 
honesty, and all true religion." To which Owen rejoined, now manfully 
giving his name, and, according to his custom, not satisfied with 
answering his immediate opponent, entered largely into the whole Popish 
controversy. Few things are more remarkable in Owen than the readiness 
with which he could thus summon to his use the vast stores of his 
accumulated learning. 
  But, even after this good service had been done to the common cause of 
Protestantism, there seemed a danger that this second work would not be 
permitted to be published; and it is curious to notice the nature of the 
objections, and the quarter whence they came. The power of licensing 
books in divinity was now in the hands of the bishops; and they were 
found to have two weighty objections to Owen's treatise. First, That in 
speaking of the evangelists and apostles, and even of Peter, he withheld 
from them the title of "saint;" and, secondly, That he had questioned 
whether it could be proved that Peter had ever been at Rome. Owen's 
treatment of these objections was every way worthy of himself In 
reference to the former, he reminded his censors that the titles of 
evangelist and apostle were superior to that of saint, inasmuch as this 
belonged to all the people of God; at the same time, he expressed his 
willingness to yield this point. But the second he could only yield on 
one condition,--namely, that they would prove that he have been mistaken. 
Owen's book at length found its way to the press; not, however, through 
the concessions of the bishops, but through the command of Sir Edward 
Nicolas, one of the principal secretaries of state, who interposed to 
overrule their scruples. 
  Dr Owen's reputation was greatly extended by these writings; and this 
led to a new interview with Clarendon. His lordship acknowledged that he 
had done more for the cause of Protestantism than any other man in 
England; and, expressing his astonishment that so learned a man should 
have been led away by "the novelty of Independency," held out to him the 
hope of high preferment in the church if he would conform. Owen undertook 
to prove, in answer to any bishop that he might appoint, that the 
Independent form of church order, instead of being a novelty, was the 
only mode of government in the church for the first two centuries; and as 
for his wish to bestow upon him ecclesiastical honours, what he had to 
ask for himself and his brethren was, not preferment within the church, 
but simple toleration without it. The dazzling bait of a mitre appears to 
have been set before all the leading Nonconformists; but not one of them 
yielded to its lure. This led the chancellor to inquire what was the 
measure of toleration he had to ask;--to which Owen is reported to have 
answered, "Liberty for all who assented to the doctrine of the church of 
England." This answer has been remarked on by some at the expense of his 
consistency and courage; and the explanation has been suggested, that he 
now asked not all that he wished, but all that there was the most distant 
hope of receiving. It should be remembered, however, in addition, that 
many of the most liberal and enlightened men among the Nonconformists of 
those days objected to the full toleration of Papists; not, indeed, on 
religious, but on political grounds;--both because they were the subjects 
of a foreign power, and because of the bearings of the question on the 
succession of the Duke of York to the throne; and to, that Owen's plan 
would actually have comprehended in it almost the whole of the Protestant 
Nonconformists of that age. 
  A more honorable way of deliverance from his troubles than conformity 
was, about the same time, presented to Dr Owen, in an earnest invitation 
from the first Congregational church of Boston, in New England, to become 
their pastor. They had "seen his labours, and heard of the grace and 
wisdom communicated to him from the Father of lights;" and when so many 
candles were not permitted to shine in England, they were eager to secure 
such a burning light for their infant colony. It does not very clearly 
appear what sort of answer Owen returned. One biographer represents him 
as willing to go, and as even having some of his property embarked in a 
vessel bound for New England, when he was stopped by orders of the court; 
others represent him as unwilling to leave behind him the struggling 
cause, and disposed to wait in England for happier days. 
  But neither the representations of Owen nor of others who were friendly 
to the Nonconformists, had any influence in changing the policy of those 
who were now in power. The golden age to which Clarendon and his 
associates sought to bring back the government and the country, was that 
of Laud, with all the tortures of the Star Chamber, the dark machinery of 
the High Commission, and the dread alternative of abject conformity, or 
proscription and ruin. And the licentious Charles, while affecting at 
times a greater liberality, joined with his ministers in their worst 
measures; either from a secret sympathy with them, or, as is more 
probable, from a hope that the ranks of Nonconformity would at length be 
so greatly swelled as to render a measure of toleration necessary that 
would include in it the Romanist along with the Puritan. Pretexts were 
sought after and eagerly seized upon, in order to increase the rigours of 
persecution; and new acts passed, such as the Conventicle Act, which 
declared it penal to hold meetings for worship, even in barns and 
highways, and offered high rewards to informers,--and whose deliberate 
intention was, either to compel the sufferers to conformity, or to goad 
them on to violence and crime. 
  In the midst of these growing rigours, which were rapidly filling the 
prisons with victims, and crowding the emigrant ships with exiles, the 
plague appeared, sweeping London as with a whirlwind of death. Then it 
was seen who had been the true spiritual shepherds of the people, and who 
had been the strangers and the hirelings. The clerical oppressors of the 
Puritans fled from the presence of the plague, while the proscribed 
preachers emerged from their hiding-places, shared the dangers of that 
dreadful hour, addressed instruction and consolation to the perishing and 
bereaved, and stood between the living and the dead, until the plague was 
stayed. One thing, however, had been disclosed by these occurrences; and 
this was the undiminished influence of the Nonconformist pastors over 
their people, and the increased love of their people to them; nor could 
the pastors ever be cut off from the means of temporal support, so long 
as intercourse between them and their people was maintained. This led to 
the passing of another act, whose ingenious cruelty historians have vied 
with each other adequately to describe. In the Parliament at Oxford, 
which had fled thither in order to escape the ravages of the plague, a 
law was enacted which virtually banished all Nonconformist ministers five 
miles from any city, town, or borough, that sent members to Parliament, 
and five miles from any place whatsoever where they had at any time in a 
number of years past preached; unless they would take an oath which it 
was well-known no Nonconformist could take, and which the Earl of 
Southampton even declared, in his place in Parliament, no honest man 
could subscribe. This was equivalent to driving them into exile in their 
own land; and, in addition to the universal severance of the pastors from 
their people, by banishing them into remote rural districts, it exposed 
them not only to the caprice of those who were the instruments of 
government, and to all the vile acts of spies and informers, but often to 
the insults and the violence of ignorant and licentious mobs. 
  Dr Owen suffered in the midst of all these troubles; and one anecdote, 
which most probably belongs to this period, presents us with another 
picture of the times. He had gone down to visit his old friends in the 
neighbourhood of Oxford, and adopting the usual precautions of the 
period, had approached his lodging after nightfall. But notwithstanding 
all his privacy, he was observed, and information given of the place 
where he lay. Early in the morning, a company of troopers came and 
knocked at the door. The mistress coming down, boldly opened the door, 
and asked them what they would have.--"Have you any lodgers in your 
house?" they inquired. Instead of directly answering their question, she 
asked "whether they were seeking for Dr Owen?" "Yes," said they; on which 
she assured them he had departed that morning at an earlier hour. The 
soldiers believing her word, immediately rode away. In the meantime the 
Doctor, whom the woman really supposed to have been gone, as he intended 
the night before, arose, and going into a neighbouring field, whither he 
ordered his horse to be brought to him, hastened away by an unfrequented 
path towards London. 
  A second terrible visitation of Heaven was needed, in order to obtain 
for the persecuted Puritans a temporary breathing-time: and this second 
visitation came. The fire followed quickly in the footsteps of the 
plague, and the hand of intolerance was for the moment paralysed, if, 
indeed, its heart did not for a time relent. The greater number of the 
churches were consumed in the dreadful congregation. Large wooden houses 
called tabernacles were quickly reared, amid the scorched and blackened 
ruins; and in these, the Nonconformist ministers preached to anxious and 
solemnized multitudes. The long silent voices of Owen, and Manton, and 
Carol, and others, awoke the remembrance of other times; and earnest 
      "Preached as though he never should preach again; 
      And like a dying man to dying men." 
There was no possibility of silencing these preachers at such a moment. 
And the fall of Clarendon and the disgrace of Sheldon soon afterwards 
helped to prolong and enlarge their precarious liberty. 
  Many tracts, for the most part published anonymously, and without even 
the printer's name, had issued from Owen's pen during these distracting 
years, having for their object to represent the impolicy and injustice of 
persecution for conscience' sake. He had also published "A Brief 
Instruction in the Worship of God and Discipline of the churches of the 
New Testament, by way of question and answer,"-- a title which 
sufficiently describe9 the book; and some years earlier, a well compacted 
and admirably reasoned "Discourse concerning Liturgies and their 
Imposition," which illustrates the principle on which, when a student at 
Oxford, he had resisted the impositions of Laud,--a principle which 
reaches to the very foundation of the argument between the High Churchman 
and the Puritan. And his publications during the following year show with 
what untiring assiduity, in the midst of all those outward storms, he had 
been plying the work of authorship, and laying up rich stores for 
posterity. Three of Owen's best works bear the date of 1668. 
  First, there is his treatise "On the Nature, Power, Deceit, and 
Prevalence of Indwelling Sin in Believers;" on which Dr Chalmers has well 
remarked, that "there is no treatise of its learned and pious author more 
fitted to be useful to the Christian disciple; and that it is most 
important to be instructed on this subject by one who had reached such 
lofty attainments in holiness, and whose profound and experimental 
acquaintance with the spiritual life so well fitted him for expounding 
its nature and operations." Next came his "Exposition of the 130th 
Psalm,"--a work which, as we have already hinted, stood intimately 
connected with the history of Owen's own inner life; and which, 
conducting the reader through the turnings and windings along many of 
which he himself had wandered in the season of his spiritual distresses, 
shows him the way in which he at length found peace. When Owen sat down 
to the exposition of this psalm, it was not with the mere literary 
implements of study scattered around him, or in the spirit with which the 
mere scholar may be supposed to sit down to the explanation of an ancient 
classic; but, when he laid open the book of God, he laid open at the same 
time the book of his own heart and of his own history, and produced a 
book which, with all its acknowledged prolixity, and even its occasional 
obscurity, is rich in golden thoughts, and instinct with the living 
experience of "one who spoke what he knew, and testified what he had 
  Then appeared the first volume of Owen's greatest work, his "Exposition 
of the Epistle to the Hebrews,"--a work which it would be alike 
superfluous to describe or to praise. For more than twenty years his 
thoughts had been turned to the preparing of this colossal commentary on 
the most difficult of all the Pauline epistles; and at length he had 
given himself to it with ripened powers,--with the gathered treasures of 
an almost universal reading, and with the richer treasures still of a 
deep Christian experience. Not disdainful of the labours of those who had 
gone before him, he yet found that the mine had been opened, rather than 
exhausted; and, as he himself strongly expressed it, that "sufficient 
ground for renewed investigation had been left, not only for the present 
generation, but for all them that should succeed, to the consummation of 
all things" The spirit and manner in which he pursued his work is 
described by himself, and forms one of the most valuable portions of 
autobiography in all Owen's writings:--  
  "For the exposition of the epistle itself, I confess, as was said 
before, that I have had thoughts of it for many years, and have not been 
without regard to it in the whole course of my studies. But yet I must 
now say, that, after all my searching and reading, prayer and assiduous 
meditation have been my only resort, and by far the most useful means of 
light and assistance. By these have my thought been freed from many an 
entanglement, into which the writings of others had cast me, or from 
which they could not deliver me. Careful I have been, as of my life and 
soul, to bring no prejudicate sense to the words,--to impose no meaning 
of my own or other men's upon them, nor to be imposed on by the 
seasonings, pretences, or curiosities of any; but always went nakedly to 
the Word itself, to learn humbly the mind of God in it, and to express it 
as he should enable me. To this end, I always considered, in the first 
place, the sense, meaning, and import of the words of the text,--their 
original derivation, use in other authors, especially in the LXX of the 
Old Testament, in the books of the New, and particularly the writings of 
the same author. Ofttimes the words expressed out of the Hebrew, or the 
things alluded to among that people, I found to give much light to the 
words of the apostle. To the general rule of attending to the design and 
scope of the place, the subject treated of, mediums fixed on for 
arguments, and methods of reasoning, I still kept in my eye the time and 
season of writing this epistle; the state and condition of those to whom 
it was written; their persuasions, prejudices, customs, light, and 
traditions I kept also in my view the covenant and worship of the church 
of old; the translation of covenant privileges and worship to the 
Gentiles upon a new account; the course of providential dispensations 
that the Jews were under; the near expiration of their church and state; 
the speedy approach of their utter abolition and destruction, with the 
temptations that befell them on all these various accounts;--without 
which it is impossible for any one justly to follow the apostle, so as to 
keep close to his design or fully to understand his meaning." The result 
has been, a work unequalled in excellence, except, perhaps, by Vitringa's 
noble commentary on Isaiah. It is quite true, that in the department of 
verbal criticism, and even in the exposition of some occasional passages, 
future expositors may have found Owen at fault,--it is even true that the 
Rabbinical lore with which the work abounds does far more to cumber than 
to illustrate the text; but when all this has been conceded, how amazing 
is the power with which Owen has unfolded the proportions, and brought 
out the meaning and spirit, of this massive epistle! It is like some vast 
monster filled with solemn light, on whose minuter details it might be 
easy to suggest improvement; but whose stable walls and noble columns 
astonish you at the skill and strength of the builder the longer you 
gaze; and there is true sublimity in the exclamation with which Owen laid 
down his pen when he had finished it: "Now, my work is done; it is time 
for me to die." Perhaps no minister in Great Britain or America for the 
last hundred and fifty years has sat down to the exposition of this 
portion of inspired truth without consulting Owen's commentary. The 
appalling magnitude of the work is the most formidable obstacle to its 
usefulness; and this the author himself seems to have anticipated even in 
his own age of ponderous and portly folios; for we find him modestly 
suggesting the possibility of treating it as if it were three separate 
works, and of reading the philological, or the exegetical, or the 
practical portion alone. We are quite aware that one man of great 
eminence has spoken in terms of disparagement almost bordering on 
contempt of one part of this great work,--"The Preliminary 
Exercitations;" but we must remember Hades love of literary paradoxes, in 
common with the great lexicographer whom he imitated; and those who are 
familiar with the writings of Owen--which Hall acknowledges he was not,-- 
will be more disposed to subscribe to the glowing terms in which his 
great rival in eloquence has spoken of Owen's Exposition: "Let me again 
recommend your studious and sustained attention," says Dr Chalmers to his 
students, "to the Epistle to the Hebrews; and I should rejoice if any of 
you felt emboldened on my advice to grapple with a work so ponderous as 
Owen's commentary on that epistle,--a lengthened and labourious 
enterprise, certainly, but now is your season for abundant labour. And 
the only thing to be attended to is, that, in virtue of being well 
directed, it shall not be wasted on a bulky, though at the same time 
profitless erudition. I promise you a hundredfold more advantage from the 
perusal of this greatest work of John Owen, than from the perusal of all 
that has been written on the subject of the heathen sacrifices. It is a 
work of gigantic strength as well as gigantic size; and he who has 
mastered it is very little short, both in respect to the doctrinal and 
the practical of christianity, of being an erudite and accomplished 
  It has been remarked, that there is no lesson so difficult to learn as 
that of true religious toleration, for almost every sect in turn, when 
tempted by the power, has resorted to the practice of persecution; and 
this remark has seldom obtained more striking confirmation than in what 
was occurring at this time in another part of the world. While in England 
the Independents, and Nonconformists generally, were passing from one 
degree of persecution to another, at the hands of the restored adherents 
of Prelacy; the Independents of New England were perpetrating even 
greater severities against the Baptists and Quakers in that infant 
colony. Whipping, fines, imprisonment, selling into slavery, were 
punishments inflicted by them on thousands who, after all, did not differ 
from their persecutors on any point that was fundamental in religion. One 
of Owen's biographers has taken very unnecessary pains to show that the 
conduct of these churches had no connection with their principles as 
Independents; but this only renders their conduct the more inexcusable, 
and proves how deeply rooted the spirit of intolerance is in human 
nature. Owen and his friends heard of these events with indignation and 
shame, and even feared that they might be turned to their disadvantage in 
England; and, in a letter subscribed along with him by all his brethren 
in London, faithfully remonstrated with the Near England persecutors. "We 
only make it our hearty request," said they, "that you will trust God 
with his truth and ways, so far as to suspend all rigorous proceedings in 
corporeal restraints or punishments on persons that dissent from you, and 
practice the principles of their dissent without danger or disturbance to 
the civil peace of the place." Sound advice is here given, but we should 
have relished a little more of the severity of stern rebuke. 
  We have seen that the great fire of London led to a temporary 
connivance at the public preaching of the Nonconformist ministers; "it 
being at the first," as Baxter remarked, "too gross to forbid an undone 
people all public worship with too great rigour." A scheme was soon after 
devised for giving to this liberty a legal sanction, and which might even 
perhaps incorporate many of the Nonconformists with the Established 
Church,--such men as Wilkins, bishop of Chester, Tillotson, and 
Stillingfleet, warmly espousing the proposal. But no sooner did the 
scheme become generally known, as well as the influential names by which 
it was approved, than the implacable adversaries of the Nonconformists 
anew bestirred themselves, and succeeded in extinguishing its generous 
provisions. It became necessary, however, in the temper of the nation, to 
do something in vindication of these severities; and no readier expedient 
suggested itself than to decry toleration as unfriendly to social order, 
and still more to blacken the character of the Nonconformist sufferers. A 
fit instrument for this work presented himself in Samuel Parker, a man of 
menial origin, who had for a time been connected with the Puritans, but 
who, deserting them when they became sufferers, was now aspiring after 
preferment in the Episcopal Church, and whom Burnet describes as "full of 
satirical vivacity, considerably learned, but of no judgment; and as to 
religion, rather impious." In his "Discourse of Ecclesiastical Polity," 
the "authority of the civil magistrate over the consciences of subjects 
in matters of external religion is asserted, the mischief and 
inconveniences of toleration are represented, and all pretences pleaded 
in favour of liberty of conscience are fully answered." Such is the 
atrocious title-page of his book, and to a modern reader, the undertaking 
to which it pledges him must seem rather bold; but the confident author 
is reported to have firmly believed in his own success. Holding out his 
book to the Earl of Anglesea, he said, "Let us see, my lord, whether any 
of your chaplains can answer it;" and the bigoted Sheldon, sympathizing 
with its spirit, naturally believed also in the exceeding force of its 
arguments. Dr Owen was chosen to reply to Parker; which he did, in one of 
the noblest controversial treatises that were ever penned by him,--"Truth 
and Innocence Vindicated, in a Survey of a Discourse on Ecclesiastical 
Polity," etc. The mind of Owen seems to have been whetted by his deep 
sense of wrong, and he writes with a remarkable clearness and force of 
argument; while he indulges at times in a style of irony which is 
justified not more by the folly than by the baseness and wickedness of 
Parker's sentiments. There is no passage, even in the writings of Locke, 
in which the province of the civil magistrate is more distinctly defined 
than in some portions of his reply; and it is curious to notice how, in 
his allusions to trade, he anticipates some of the most established 
principles of our modern political economy. Owen's work greatly increased 
his celebrity among his brethren;--even some of Parker's friends could 
with difficulty conceal the impression that he had found more than a 
match in the strong-minded and sturdy Puritan; and Parker, worsted in 
argument, next sought to overwhelm his opponent with a scurrility that 
breathed the most undisguised vindictiveness. he was "the great 
bellwether of disturbance and sedition,"--"a person who would have vied 
with Mahomet himself both for boldness and imposture,"--"a viper, so 
swollen with venom that it must either burst or spit its poison;" so that 
whoever wished to do well to his country, "could never do it better 
service than by beating down the interest and reputation of such sons of 
Belial." On this principle, at least, Parker himself might have ranked 
high as a patriot. 
  But the controversy was not over. Parker had not time to recover from 
the ponderous club of Owen, when he was assailed by the keen edged wit of 
Andrew Marvell. This accomplished man, the undersecretary and bosom 
friend of Milton, reviewed Parker's work in his "Rehearsal Transposed,"-- 
a work of which critics have spoken as rivaling in some places the 
causticity and neatness of Swift, and in others equalling the eloquent 
invective of Junius and the playful exuberance of Burke. The conceited 
ecclesiastic was overwhelmed, and a number of masked combatants 
perceiving his plight, now rushed to his defense; in all whom, however, 
Marvell refused to distinguish any but Parker. In a second part of his 
"Rehearsal," he returned to the pen-combat, as Wood has called it; and 
transfixed his victim with new arrows from his exhaustless quiver. It is 
impossible to read many parts of it yet, without sharing with the 
laughers of the age in the influence of Marvell's genius. Ridiculing his 
self-importance, he says, "If he chance but to sneeze, he prays that "the 
foundations of the earth be not shaken". Ever since he crept up to be but 
"the weathercock of a steeple", he trembles and cracks at every puff of 
wind that blows about him, as "if the Church of England were falling." 
Marvell's wit was triumphant; and even Charles and his court joined in 
laughing at Parker's discomfiture. "Though the delinquent did not lay 
violent hands on himself," says D'Israeli, "he did what, for an author, 
may be considered as desperate a course,-- withdraw from the town, and 
cease writing for many years," secretly nursing a revenge which he did 
not dare to gratify until he knew that Marvell was in his grave. 
  It was one thing, however, to conquer in the field of argument, and 
another thing to disarm the intolerance of those in power. The Parliament 
which met in 1671, goaded on by those sleepless ecclesiastics who were 
animated by the malign spirit of Parker, confirmed all the old acts 
against the Nonconformists, and even passed others of yet more 
intolerable rigour. It is impossible to predict to what consequences the 
enforcement of these measures must soon have led, had not Charles, by his 
declaration of indulgence, of his own authority suspended the penal 
statutes against Nonconformists and Popish recusants, and given them 
permission to renew their meetings for public worship on their procuring 
a license, which would be granted for that purpose. This measure was, no 
doubt, unconstitutional in its form, and more than doubtful in the 
motives which prompted it; but many of the Nonconformists, seeing in it 
only the restoration of a right of which they ought never to have been 
deprived,--and some of them, like Owen, regarding it as "an expedient, 
according to the custom in former times, for the peace and security of 
the kingdom, until the whole matter might be settled in Parliament," 
joyfully took shelter under its provisions. 
  The Nonconformists were prompt in improving their precarious 
breathing-time. A weekly lecture was instituted at Pinner's Hall by the 
Presbyterians and Independents, in testimony of their union of sentiment 
on fundamental truths, and as an antidote to Popish, Socinian, and 
Infidel opinions. Owen began to preach more publicly in London to a 
regular congregation; and his venerable friend, Joseph Carol, having died 
soon after the declaration of indulgence, the congregations of the two 
ministers consented to unite under the ministry of Owen, in the place of 
worship in Leadenhall Street. Owen's church-book presents the names of 
some of the chiefs of Nonconformity as members of his flock, and 
"honorable women not a few." Among others, there have been found the 
names of more than one of the heroes of the army of the Commonwealth,-- 
such as Lord Charles Fleetwood and Colonel Desborough; certain members of 
the Abney family, in whose hospitable mansion the saintly Isaac Watts in 
after times found shelter for more than thirty years; the Countess of 
Anglesea; and Mrs Bendish, the granddaughter of Cromwell, in whom, it is 
said, may of the bodily and mental features of the Protector remarkably 
reappeared. Some of these might be able at times to throw their shield 

(continued in part 6...)

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