John Owen, A Vindication of some Passages in a Discourse concerning Communion with God A Vindication of some Passages in a Discourse concerning Communion with God, from the Exceptions of William Sherlock, rector of St. George, Botolph Lane Prefatory Note. William Sherlock, father of Dr Thomas Sherlock, an eminent bishop of London, was himself distinguished as an author, and mingled deeply in the controversies of his day. His strictures on Owen's work on Communion with God appeared in 1674, after that work had been seventeen years before the public. It seems to have been Sherlock's first appearance in authorship; and some of his subsequent treatises such as those on Providence and on Death afford a better specimen of his abilities. They are destitute of evangelical principle and feeling, and imbued throughout with a freezing rationalism of tone; but, nevertheless, contain some views of the Divine administration, acutely conceived and ably stated. He became rector of St George, Botolph Lane, received a prebend in St Paul's, and was appointed Master of the Temple about 1684. His conduct at the Revolution was not straightforward, and laid him open to the reproaches of the Jacobites, who blamed him for deserting their party. There was a controversy. of some importance between him and Dr South. The latter, on the ground of some expressions in the work by the former on the Trinity (1690), accused him of Tritheism. Sherlock retorted by accusing his critic of Sabellianism. He died in 1707, at the acre of sixty-six. Sherlock's work against Owen was entitled, "A Discourse concerning the Knowledge of Jesus Christ, and on Union and Communion with Him," etc. Owen confines himself, in his reply, to an exposure of the misrepresentations in which Sherlock had indulged. The latter, for example, sought to fix on the Puritan divine the doctrine, that the knowledge of divine things was to be obtained from the person of Christ, apart from the truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Our author successfully vindicates himself from this charge, and repudiates other sentiments equally mystical, and ascribed to him with equal injustice. The views of Sherlock, on the points at issue, have been termed, "a confused mass of Socinianized Arminianism." Owen evinces a strength of feeling, in some parts of his "Vindication," which may be accounted for on the ground that he resented the attack as part of a systematic effort made at this time to destroy his standing and reputation as an author. In the main, there is a dignity in his statements which contrasts well with the wayward petulance of his antagonist; and occasionally the reader will find a vein of quiet and skilful irony, in the way in which he disposes of the crude views of Sherlock. Such was the beginning of the Communion Controversy, which soon embraced a wider range of topics, and points of more importance, than the merits of Owen's book. Besides the original disputants, others entered the field. Robert Ferguson in 1675, wrote against Sherlock a volume entitled, "The Interest of Reason in Religion," etc. Edward Polhill followed, in "An Answer to the Discourse of Mr William Sherlock," etc. Vincent Alsop first displayed in this controversy his powers of wit and acumen as an author, in his "Antisozzo, or Sherlocismus Enervatus." Henry Hickman, a man of considerable gifts, and pastor of an English congregation at Leaden, wrote the "Speculum Sherlockianum," etc. Samuel Rolle, a nonconformist, wrote the "Prodromus, or the Character of Mr Sherlock's Books" and also, in the same controversy, "Justification Justified." Thomas Danson, who had been ejected from Sibton, and author of several works against the Quakers, wrote "The Friendly Debate between Satan and Sherlock" and afterwards he published again in defence of it. Sherlock, in 1675, replied to Owen and Ferguson in his "Defence and Continuation of the Discourse concerning the Knowledge of Jesus Christ." He was supported by Thomas Hotchkis, Rector of Staunton, in a "Discourse concerning the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness," etc. The singular diligence of Mr Orme has compiled this full list of the works published in this controversy; but he is not quite correct in affirming that it was closed by the replies of Sherlock and Hotchkis in 1675. A second part of the work by Hotchkis appeared in 1678, and Sherlock was the author of two other works, "An Answer to Thomas Danson's scandalous pamphlet, entitled 'A Friendly Conference,'" etc., which appeared in 1677, and was followed by a "Vindication of Mr Sherlock against the Cavils of Mr Danson." - ED. A Vindication of some Passages in a Discourse concerning Communion with God. It is now near twenty years since I wrote and published a Discourse concerning Communion with God. Of what use and advantage it has been to any, as to their furtherance in the design aimed at therein, is left unto them to judge by whom it has been perused with any candid diligence; and I do know that multitudes of persons fearing God, and desiring to walk before him in sincerity, are ready, if occasion require, to give testimony unto the benefit which they have received thereby; - as I can also at any time produce the testimonies of [as] learned and holy persons, it may be, as any I know living, both in England and out of it, who, owning the truth contained in it, have highly avowed its usefulness, and are ready yet so to do. With all other persons, so far as ever I heard, it passed at the rate of a tolerable acceptation with discourses of the same kind and nature. And however any thing or passage in it might not, possibly, suit the apprehensions of some, yet, being wholly practical, designed for popular edification, without any direct engagement into things controversial, I looked for no opposition unto it or exception against it; but that it would at least be suffered to pass at that rate of allowance which is universally granted unto that sort of writings, both of ancient and modern authors. Accordingly it so fell out, and continued for many years; until some persons began to judge it their interest, and to make it their business, to cavil at my writings, and to load my person with reproaches. With what little success, as to their avowed designs, they have laboured therein, - how openly their endeavours are sunk into contempt with all sorts of persons pretending unto the least sobriety or modesty, - I suppose they are not themselves altogether insensible. Among the things which this sort of men sought to make an advantage of against me, I found that two or three of them began to reflect on that discourse; though it appeared they had not satisfied themselves what as yet to fix upon, their nibbling cavils being exceedingly ridiculous. But yet, from those intimations of some men's good-will towards it, - sufficient to provoke the industry of such as either needed their assistance or valued their favour, - I was in expectation that one or other would possess that province, and attempt the whole discourse or some parts of it. Nor was I dissatisfied in my apprehensions of that design; for, being earnestly solicited to suffer it to be reprinted, I was very willing to see what either could or would be objected against it before it received another impression. For whereas it was written now near twenty years ago, when there was the deepest peace in the minds of all men about the things treated of therein, and when I had no apprehension of any dissent from the principal design, scope, and parts of it by any called Christians in the world, the Socinians only excepted (whom I had therein no regard unto), I thought it highly probable that some things might have been so expressed as to render a review and amendment to them more than ordinarily necessary. And I reckoned it not improbable, but that from one malevolent adversary I might receive a more instructive information of such escapes of diligence than I could do in so long a time from all the more impartial readers of it; for as unto the substance of the doctrine declared in it, I was sufficiently secure, not only of its truth, but that it would immovably endure the rudest assaults of such oppositions as I did expect. I was therefore very well satisfied when I heard of the publishing of this treatise of Mr Sherlock's, - which, as I was informed, and since have found true, was principally intended against myself, and that discourse (that is, that book), because I was the author of it, which will at last prove it to be its only guilt and crime; - for I thought I should be at once now satisfied, both what it was which was so long contriving against it (whereof I could give no conjecture), as also be directed unto any such mistakes as might have befallen me in matter or manner of expression, which I would or might rectify before the book received another edition. But, upon a view and perusal of this discourse, I found myself under a double surprisal. For, first, in reference to my own, I could not find any thing, any doctrine, any expressions, any words reflected on, which the exceptions of this man do give me the least occasion to alter, or to desire that they had been otherwise either expressed or delivered; - not any thing which now, after near twenty years, I do not still equally approve of, and which I am not yet ready to justify. The other part of my surprisal was somewhat particular, though, in truth, it ought to have been none at all; and this was with respect unto those doctrinal principles which he manageth his oppositions upon. A surprisal they were unto me, because wild, uncouth, extravagant, and contrary to the common faith of Christians, - being all of them traduced, and some of them transcribed, from the writings of the Socinians; [while] yet [they] ought not to have been so, because I was assured that an opposition unto that discourse could be managed on no other [ground]. But, however, the doctrine maintained by this man, and those opposed or scorned by him, are not my special concernment; for what is it to me what the Rector of etc., preacheth or publisheth, beyond my common interest in the truths of the gospel, with other men as great strangers unto him as myself, who to my knowledge never saw him, nor heard of his name till infamed by his book? Only, I shall take leave to say, that the doctrine here published, and licensed so to be, is either the doctrine of the present church of England, or it is not. If it be so, I shall be forced to declare that I neither have, nor will have, any communion therein; and that, as for other reasons, so in particular, because I will not renounce or depart from that which I know to be the true, ancient, and catholic doctrine of this church. If it be not so, - as I am assured, with respect unto many bishops and other learned men, that it is not, - it is certainly the concernment of them who preside therein to take care that such kind of discourses be not countenanced with the stamp of their public authority, lest they and the church be represented unto a great disadvantage with many. It was some months after the publishing of this discourse, before I entertained any thoughts of taking the least notice of it, - yea, I was resolved to the contrary, and declared those resolutions as I had occasion; neither was it until very lately that my second thoughts came to a compliance with the desires of some others, to consider my own peculiar concernment therein. And this is all which I now design; for the examination of the opinions which this author has vented under the countenance of public license, whatever they may think, I know to be more the concernment of other men than mine. Nor yet do I enter into the consideration of what is written by this author with the least respect unto myself, or my own reputation, which I have the satisfaction to conceive not to be prejudiced by such pitiful attempts; nor have I the least desire to preserve it in the minds of such persons as wherein it can suffer on this occasion. But the vindication of some sacred truths, petulantly traduced by this author, seems to be cast on me in an especial manner; because he has opposed them, and endeavoured to expose them to scorn, as declared in my book; whence others, more meet for this work, might think themselves discharged from taking notice of them. Setting aside this consideration, I can freely give this sort of men leave to go on with their revilings and scoffings until they are weary or ashamed; which, as far as I can discern, upon consideration of their ability for such a work, and their confidence therein, is not like to be in haste; - at least, they can change their course, and when they are out of breath in pursuit of one sort of calumnies, retake themselves unto another. Witness the late malicious, and yet withal ridiculous, reports that they have divulged concerning me, even with respect unto civil affairs, and their industry therein; for although they were such as had not any thing of the least probability or likelihood to give them countenance, yet were they so impetuously divulged, and so readily entertained by many, as made me think there was more than the common artifices of calumny employed in their raising and improvement, especially considering what persons I can justly charge those reports upon. But in this course they may proceed whilst they please and think convenient: I find myself no more concerned in what they write or say of this nature than if it were no more but, - epei ete kakoi out' afroni foti eoikas. Oule te, kai mega chaire, Theoi de toi oltia doien. It is the doctrine traduced only that I am concerned about, and that as it has been the doctrine of the church of England. It may be it will be said (for there is no security against confidence and immodesty, backed with secular advantages), that the doctrinal principles asserted in this book are agreeable with the doctrine of the church in former times; and therefore those opposed in it, such as are condemned thereby. Hereabout I shall make no long contest with them who once discover that their minds are by any means emboldened to undertake the defence of such shameless untruths; nor shall I multiply testimonies to prove the contrary, which others are more concerned to do, if they intend not to betray the religion of that church with whose preservation and defence they are intrusted. Only, because there are ancient divines of this church, who, I am persuaded, will be allowed with the most to have known as well the doctrine of it, and as firmly to have adhered thereunto, as this author, who have particularly spoken unto most of the things which he has opposed, or rather reproached, I shall transcribe the words of one of them, whereby he, and those who employ him, may be minded with whom they have to do in those things. For, as to the writers of the ancient church, there is herein no regard had unto them. He whom I shall name is Mr. Hooker, and that in his famous book of "Ecclesiastical Polity;" who, in the fifth book thereof, and 56th paragraph, thus discourseth: - "We have hitherto spoken of the person and of the presence of Christ. Participation is that mutual inward hold which Christ has of us, and we of him, in such sort that each possesses other by way of special interest, property, and inherent copulation." And after the interposition of some things conceding the mutual in-being and love of the Father and the Son, he thus proceedeth: - "We are by nature the sons of Adam. When God created Adam, he created us; and as many as are descended from Adam have in themselves the root out of which they spring. The sons of God we neither are all nor any one of us, otherwise than only by grace and favour. The sons of God have God's own natural Son as a second Adam from heaven; whose race and progeny they are by spiritual and heavenly birth. God therefore loving eternally his Son, he must needs eternally in him have loved, and preferred before all others, them which are spiritually since descended and sprung out of him. These were in God as in their Saviour, and not as in their Creator only. It was the purpose of his saving goodness, his saving wisdom, and his saving power, which inclined itself towards them. They which thus were in God eternally by their intended admission to life, have, by vocation or adoption, God actually now in them, as the artifices is in the work which his hand does presently frame. Life, as all other gifts and benefits, grows originally from the Father, and comes not to us but by the Son, nor by the Son to any of us in particular, but through the Spirit. For this cause the apostle wisheth to the church of Corinth, 'the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the holy Ghost;' which three St Peter comprehendeth in one, - the participation of the divine nature. We are, therefore, in God through Christ eternally, according to that intent and purpose whereby we are chosen to be made his in this present world before the world itself was made. We are in God through the knowledge which is had of us, and the love which is borne towards us from everlasting; but in God we actually are no longer than only from the time of our actual adoption into the body of his true church, into the fellowship of his children. For his church he knoweth and loveth; so that they which are in the church are thereby known to be in him. Our being in Christ by eternal foreknowledge saveth us not, without our actual and real adoption into the fellowship of his saints in this present world. For in him we actually are by our actual incorporation into that society which has him for their head, and does make together with him one body (he and they in that respect having one name); for which cause, by virtue of this mystical conjunction, we are of him, and in him, even as though our very flesh and bones should be made continuate with his. We are in Christ, because he knoweth and loveth us, even as parts of himself. No man is actually in him but they in whom he actually is; for he which has not the Son of God has not life. 'I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit;' but the branch severed from the vine withereth. We are, therefore, adopted sons of God to eternal life by participation of the only begotten Son of God, whose life is the well-spring and cause of ours. It is too cold an interpretation, whereby some men expound our being in Christ to import nothing else but only that the self-same nature which maketh us to be men is in him, and maketh him man as we are. For what man in the world is there which has not so far forth communion with Jesus Christ? It is not this that can sustain the weight of such sentences as speak of the mystery of our coherence with Jesus Christ. The church is in Christ, as Eve was in Adam. Yea, by grace we are every [one] of us in Christ and in his church, as by nature we were in those, our first parents. God made Eve of the rib of Adam; and his church he frameth out of the very flesh, the very wounded and bleeding side, of the Son of man. His body crucified, and his blood shed for the life of the world, are the true elements of that heavenly being which maketh us such as himself is of whom we come. For which cause the words of Adam may be fitly the words of Christ concerning his church, 'Flesh of my flesh, and bone of my bones;' - 'A true nature, extract out of mine own body.' So that in him, even according to his manhood, we, according to our heavenly being, are as branches in that root out of which they grow. To all things he is life, and to men light, as the Son of God; to the church, both life and light eternal, by being made the Son of man for us, and by being in us a Saviour, whether we respect him as God or as man. Adam is in us as an original cause of our nature, and of that corruption of nature which causeth death; Christ as the cause original of restoration to life. The person of Adam is not in us, but his nature, and the corruption of his nature, derived into all men by propagation. Christ having Adam's nature, as we have, but incorrupt, deriveth not nature but incorruption, and that immediately from his own person, into all that belong unto him. As, therefore, we are really partakers of the body of sin and death received from Adam; so, except we be truly partakers of Christ, and as really possessed of his Spirit, all we speak of eternal life is but a dream. That which quickeneth us is the Spirit of the second Adam, and his flesh that wherewith he quickeneth. That which in him made our nature incorrupt was the union of his Deity with our nature. And in that respect the sentence of death and condemnation, which only taketh hold upon sinful flesh, could no way possibly extend unto him. This caused his voluntary death for others to prevail with God, and to have the force of an expiatory sacrifice. The blood of Christ, as the apostle witnesseth, does, therefore, take away sin; because, 'Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself unto God without spot.' That which sanctified our nature in Christ, - that which made it a sacrifice available to take away sin, is the same which quickened it, raised it out of the grave after death, and exalted it unto glory. Seeing, therefore, that Christ is in us a quickening Spirit, the first degree of communion with Christ must needs consist in the participation of his Spirit, which Cyprian in that respect terms 'germanissimam societatem,' - the highest and truest society that can be between man and him, which is both God and man in one. These things St Cyril duly considering, reproveth their speeches which taught that only the Deity of Christ is the vine whereupon we by faith do depend as branches, and that neither his flesh nor our bodies are comprised in this resemblance. For does any man doubt but that even from the flesh of Christ our very bodies do receive that life which shall make them glorious at the latter day; and for which they are already accounted parts of his blessed body? Our corruptible bodies could never live the life they shall live, were it not that here they are joined with his body, which is incorruptible; and that his is in ours as a cause of immortality, - a cause, by removing, through the death and merit of his own flesh, that which hindered the life of ours. Christ is, therefore, both as God and as man, that true vine whereof we both spiritually and corporally are branches. The mixture of his bodily substance with ours is a thing which the ancient fathers disclaim. Yet the mixture of his flesh with ours they speak of, to signify what our very bodies, through mystical conjunction, receive from that vital efficacy which we know to be in his; and from bodily mixtures they borrow divers similitudes, rather to declare the truth than the manner of coherence between his sacred [body] and the sanctified bodies of saints. Thus much no Christian man will deny, that when Christ sanctified his own flesh, giving as God, and taking as man, the Holy Ghost, he did not this for himself only, but for our sakes, that the grace of sanctification and life, which was first received in him, might pass from him to his whole race, as malediction came from Adam into all mankind. Howbeit, because the work of his Spirit to those effects is in us prevented by sin and death possessing us before, it is of necessity that as well our present sanctification into newness of life, as the future restoration of our bodies, should presuppose a participation of the grace, efficacy, merit, or virtue of his body and blood; - without which foundation first laid, there is no place for those other operations of the Spirit of Christ to ensue. So that Christ imparteth plainly himself by degrees. It pleaseth him, in mercy, to account himself incomplete and maimed without us. But most assured we are, that we all receive of his fulness, because he is in us as a moving and working cause; from which many blessed effects are really found to ensue, and that in sundry both kinds and degrees, all tending to eternal happiness. It must be confessed, that of Christ working as a creator and a governor of the world, by providence all are partakers; - not all partakers of that grace whereby he inhabiteth whom he saveth. Again: as he dwelleth not by grace in all, so neither does he equally work in all them in whom he dwelleth. 'Whence is it,' saith St Augustine, 'that some be holier than others are, but because God does dwell in some more plentifully than in others?' And because the divine substance of Christ is equally in all, his human substance equally distant from all, it appeareth that the participation of Christ, wherein there are many degrees and differences, must needs consist in such effects as, being derived from both natures of Christ really into us, are made our own: and we, by having them in us, are truly said to have him from whom they come; Christ also, more or less, to inhabit and impart himself, as the graces are fewer or more, greater or smaller, which really flow into us from Christ. Christ is whole with the whole church, and whole with every part of the church, as touching his person, which can no way divide itself, or be possessed by degrees and portions. But the participation of Christ importeth, besides the presence of Christ's person, and besides the mystical copulation thereof with the parts and members of his whole church, a true actual influence of grace, whereby the life which we live according to godliness is his; and from him we receive those perfections wherein our eternal happiness consisteth. Thus we participate Christ: - partly by imputation; as when those things which he did and suffered for us are imputed unto us for righteousness; partly by habitual and real infusion; as when grace is inwardly bestowed while we are on earth; - and afterward more fully, both our souls and bodies made like unto his in glory. The first thing of his so infused into our hearts in this life is the Spirit of Christ; whereupon, because the rest, of what kind soever, do all both necessarily depend and infallibly also ensue, therefore the apostles term it sometimes the seed of God, sometimes the pledge of our heavenly inheritance, sometimes the hansel or earnest of that which is to come. From whence it is that they which belong to the mystical body of our Saviour Christ, and be in number as the stars of heaven, - divided successively, by reason of their mortal condition, into many generations, - are, notwithstanding, coupled every one to Christ their head, and all unto every particular person amongst themselves; inasmuch as the same Spirit which anointed the blessed soul of our Saviour Christ does so formalise, unite, and actuate his whole race, as if both he and they were so many limbs compacted into one body, by being quickened all with one and the same soul. That wherein we are partakers of Jesus Christ by imputation, agreeth aqua]ly unto all what have it; for it consisteth in such acts and deeds of his as could not have longer continuance than while they were in doings nor at that very time belong unto any other but to him from whom they come: and therefore, how men, either then, or before, or since, should be made partakers of them, there can be no way imagined but only by imputation. Again: a deed must either not be imputed to any, but rest altogether in him whose it is; or, if at all it be imputed, they which have it by imputation must have it such as it is, - whole. So that degrees being neither in the personal presence of Christ, nor in the participation of those effects which are ours by imputation only, it resteth that we wholly apply them to the participation of Christ's infused grace; although, even in this kind also, the first beginning of life, the seed of God, the first-fruits of Christ's Spirit, be without latitude. For we have hereby only the being of the sons of God: in which number, how far soever one may seem to excel another, yet touching this, that all are sons, they are all equals; some, happily, better sons than the rest are, but none any more a son than another. Thus, therefore, we see how the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father; how they both are in all things, and all things in them: what communion Christ has with his church; how his church, and every member thereof, is in him by original derivation, and he personal]y in them, by way of mystical association, wrought through the gift of the holy Ghost; which they that are his receive from him, and, together with the same, what benefit soever the vital force of his body and blood may yield; - yea, by steps and degrees they receive the complete measure of all such divine grace as does sanctify and save throughout, till the day of their final exaltation to a state of fellowship in glory with him, whose partakers they are now in those things that tend to glory." Owen, A Vindication... (continued in File 2...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owvin-01.txt .