Owen, A Vindication... File 4 (... continued from File 3) If the reader will be at the pains to look on the discourse whence these passages are taken, I shall desire no more of his favour but that he profess himself to be a Christian, and then let him freely pronounce whether he find any thing in it obnoxious to censure. Or, I desire that any man, who has not forfeited all reason and ingenuity unto faction and party, if he differ from me, truly to state wherein, and oppose what I have said with an answer unto the testimonies wherewith it is confirmed, referred unto in the margin of my discourse. But the way of this author's proceeding, if there be no plea to be made for it from his ignorance and unacquaintedness not only with the person of Christ, but with most of the other things he undertakes to write about, is altogether inexcusable. The way whereby I have expressed the consent of the soul in the receiving of Jesus Christ, to be justified, sanctified, saved by him, I still avow, as suited unto the mind of the Holy Ghost, and the experience of them that really believe. And whereas I added, that before believing, the soul did seek for salvation by the works of the law, as it is natural unto all, and as the Holy Ghost affirms of some (whose words alone I used, and expressly quoted that place from whence I took them, - namely, Rom. 9: 31, this man adds, as an exposition of that expression, "That is, by obeying the laws of the gospel." But he knew that these were the words of the apostle, or he did not; if he did not, nor would take notice of them so to be, although directed to the place from whence they are taken, it is evident how meet he is to debate matters of this nature and concernment, and how far he is yet from being in danger to "pore out his eyes" in reading the Scripture, as he pretends. If he did know them to be his words, why does he put such a sense upon them as, in his own apprehension, is derogatory to gospel obedience? Whatever he thought of beforehand, it is likely he will now say that it is my sense, and not the apostle's, which he intends. But how will he prove that I intended any other sense than that of the apostle? how should this appear? Let him, if he can, produce any word in my whole discourse intimating any other sense. Nay, it is evident that I had no other intention but only to refer unto that place of the apostle, and the proper sense of it; which is to express the mind and acting of those who, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, go about to establish their own righteousness; as he farther explains himself, Rom. 10: 3, 4. That I could not intend obedience unto the laws of the gospel is so evident, that nothing but abominable prejudice or ignorance could hinder any man from discerning it. For that faith which I expressed by the soul's consent to take Christ as a saviour and a ruler, is the very first act of obedience unto the gospel: so that therein or thereon to exclude obedience unto the gospel, is to deny what I assert; which, under the favour of this author, I understand myself better than to do. And as to all other acts of obedience unto the laws of the gospel, following and proceeding from sincere believing, it is openly evident that I could not understand them when I spake only of what was antecedent unto them. And if this man knows not what transactions are in the minds of many before they do come unto the acceptance of Christ on his own terms, or believe in him according to the tenor of the gospel, there is reason to pity the people that are committed unto his care and instruction, what regard soever ought to be had unto himself. And his pitiful trifling in the exposition he adds of this passage, "To be saved without doing any thing, without obeying thee, and the law," does but increase the guilt of his prevarications; for the words immediately added in my discourse are, - "And although I have walked according unto mine own mind, yet now I wholly give up myself to be ruled by thy Spirit;" which, unto the understanding of all men who understand any thing in these matters, signify no less than an engagement unto the universal relinquishment of sin, and entire obedience unto Jesus Christ in all things. "But this," saith he, "is a pretty compliment that the soul makes to Christ after all." But why is this to be esteemed only a "pretty compliment?" It is spoken at the same time, and, as it were, with the same breath, there being in the discourse no period between this passage and that before; and why must it be esteemed quite of another nature, so that herein the soul should only compliment, and be real in what is before expressed? What if one should say, it was real only in this latter expression and engagement, that the former was only a "pretty compliment?" May it not, with respect unto my sense and intention (from any thing in my words, or that can be gathered from them, or any circumstances of the place), be spoken with as much regard unto truth and honesty? What religion these men are of I know not. If it be such as teacheth them these practices, and countenanceth them in them, I openly declare that I am not of it, nor would be so for all that this world can afford. I shall have done, when I have desired him to take notice, that I not only believe and maintain the necessity of obedience unto all the laws, precepts, commands, and institutions of the gospel, - of universal holiness, the mortification of all sin, fruitfulness in good works, in all that intend or design salvation by Jesus Christ; but also have proved and confirmed my persuasion and assertions by better and more cogent arguments than any which, by his writings, he seems as yet to be acquainted withal. And unless he can prove that I have spoken or written any thing to the contrary, or he can disprove the arguments whereby I have confirmed it, I do here declare him a person altogether unfit to be dealt withal about things of this nature, his ignorance or malice being invincible; nor shall I, on any provocation, ever hereafter take notice of him until he has mended his manners. His third section, p. 76, consists of three parts: - First, "That some" (wherein it is apparent that I am chiefly, if not only, intended) "do found a religion upon a pretended acquaintance with Christ's person, without and besides the gospel;" whereunto he opposeth his running title of "No acquaintance with Christ but by revelation." Secondly, A supposition of a scheme of religion drawn from the knowledge of Christ's person; whereunto he opposeth another, which he judgeth better. Thirdly, An essay to draw up the whole plot and design of Christianity, with the method of the recovery of sinners unto God. In the first of these, I suppose that I am, if not solely, yet principally, intended; especially considering what he affirms, pp. 98, 99, namely, that "I plainly confess our religion is wholly owing unto acquaintance with the person of Christ, and could never have been clearly and savingly learned from the gospel, had we not first grown acquainted with his person." Now, herein there is an especial instance of that truth and honesty wherewith my writings are entertained by this sort of men. It is true, I have asserted that it is necessary for Christians to know Jesus Christ, - to be acquainted with his person that is (as I have fully and largely declared it in the discourse excepted against), the glory of his divine nature, the purity of his human, the infinite condescension of his person in the assumption of our nature, his love and grace, etc., as is at large there declared: and now I add, that he by whom this is denied is no Christian. Secondly, I have taught, that by this knowledge of the person of Christ, or an understanding of the great mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, which we ought to pray for and labour after, we come more fully and clearly to understand sundry other important mysteries of heavenly truth; which without the knowledge of Christ we cannot attain unto. And how impertinent this man's exceptions are against this assertion, we have seen already. But, thirdly, that this knowledge of Christ, or acquaintance with him, is to be attained before we come to know the gospel, or by any other means than the gospel, or is any other but the declaration that is made thereof in and by the gospel, was never thought, spoken, or written by me, and is here falsely supposed by this author, as elsewhere falsely charged on me. And I again challenge him to produce any one letter or tittle out of any of my writings to give countenance unto this frostless calumny. And therefore, although I do not like his expression, p. 77, "Whoever would understand the religion of our Saviour, must learn it from his doctrine, and not from his person," for many reasons I could give; yet I believe no less than he, that the efficacy of Christ's mediation depending on God's appointment can be known only by revelation, and that no man can draw any one conclusion from the person of Christ which the gospel has not expressly taught; because we can know no more of its excellency, worth, and works, than what is there revealed: whereby he may see how miserably ill-will, malice, or ignorance has betrayed him into the futilous pains of writing this section upon a contrary supposition falsely imputed unto me. And as for his drawing schemes of religion, I must tell him, and let him disprove it if he be able, I own no religion, no article of faith, but what is taught expressly in the Scripture, mostly confirmed by the ancient general councils of the primitive church, and the writings of the most learned fathers, against all sorts of heretics, especially the Gnostics, Photinians, and Pelagians, consonant to the articles of the church of England, and the doctrine of all the reformed churches of Europe. And if in the exposition of any place of Scripture I dissent from any that, for the substance of it, own the religion I do, I do it not without cogent reasons from the Scripture itself; and where, in any opinions which learned men have (and, it may be, always had) different apprehensions about, which has not been thought to prejudice the unity of faith amongst them, I hope I do endeavour to manage that dissent with that modesty and sobriety which becometh me. And as for the schemes, plots, or designs of religion or Christianity, given us by this author and owned by him (it being taken pretendedly from the person of Christ, when it is hoped that he may have a better to give us from the gospel, seeing he has told us we must learn our religion from his doctrine and not from his person); besides that it is liable unto innumerable exceptions in particular, which may easily be given in against it by such as have nothing else to do, whereas it makes no mention of the effectual grace of Christ and the gospel for the conversion and sanctification of sinners, and the necessity thereof unto all acts of holy obedience, - it is merely Pelagianism, and stands anathematised by sundry councils of the ancient church. I shall not, therefore, concern myself farther in any passages of this section, most of them wherein it reflects on others standing in competition for truth and ingenuity with the foundation and design of the whole; only I shall say, that the passage of pp. 88, 89, - "This made the divine goodness so restlessly zealous and concerned for the recovery of mankind; various ways he attempted in former ages, but with little success, as I observed before; but at last God sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world," without a very cautious explanation and charitable construction, is false, scandalous, and blasphemous. For allow this author, who contends so severely for propriety of expressions, against allusions and metaphors, to say that the divine goodness was "restlessly zealous and concerned" (for, indeed, such is our weakness, that, whether we will or no, we must sometimes learn and teach divine things in such words as are suited to convey an apprehension of them unto our minds, though, in their application unto the divine nature, they are incapable of being understood in the propriety of their signification, though this be as untowardly expressed as any thing I have of late met withal); yet what colour can be put upon, what excuse can be made for, this doctrine, that "God in former ages, by various ways, attempted the recovery of mankind, but with little success," I know not. Various attempts in God for any end without success, do not lead the mind into right notions of his infinite wisdom and omnipotence; and that God, by any way, at any time, attempted the recovery of mankind distinctly and separately from the sending of his Son, is lewdly false. In the greatest part of his fourth section, entitled, "How men pervert the Scripture to make it comply with their fancy," I am not much concerned; save that the foundation of the whole, and that which animates his discourse from first to last, is laid in an impudent calumny, - namely, that I declare that "our religion is wholly owing to an acquaintance with the person of Christ, and could never have been clearly and savingly learned from his gospel, had we not first grown acquainted with his person." This shameless falsehood is that alone whence he takes occasion and confidence, to reproach myself and others, to condemn the doctrine of all the reformed churches and openly to traduce and vilify the Scripture itself. I shall only briefly touch on some of the impotent dictates of this great corrector of divinity and religion. His discourse of accommodating Scripture expressions to men's own dreams, pp. 99-101, being such as any man may use concerning any other men on the like occasion, if they have a mind unto it, and intend to have no more regard to their consciences than some others seem to have, may be passed by. P. 102, he falls upon the ways of expounding Scripture among those whom he sets himself against, and positively affirms, "that there are two ways of it in great vogue among them: - First, By the sound and clink of the words and phrases; which, as he says, is all some men understand by keeping a form of sound words. Secondly, When this will not do, they reason about the sense of them from their own preconceived notions and opinions, and prove that this must be the meaning of Scripture, because otherwise it is not reconcilable to their dreams; which is called expounding Scripture by the analogy of faith." Thus far he; and yet we shall have the same man not long hence pleading for the necessity of holiness. But I wish, for my part, he would take notice that I despise that holiness, and the principles of it, which will allow men to coin, invent, and publish such notorious untruths against any sort of men whatever. And whereas, by what immediately follows, I seem to be principally intended in this charge, as I know the untruth of it, so I have published some expositions on some parts of the Scripture to the judgement of the Christian world; to which I appeal from the censures of this man and his companions, as also for those which, if I live and God will, I shall yet publish; and do declare, that, for reasons very satisfactory to my mind, I will not come to him nor them to learn how to expound the Scripture. But he will justify his charge by particular instances, telling us, p. 102, "Thus when men are possessed with a fancy of an acquaintance with Christ's person, then to know Christ can signify nothing else but to know his person and all his personal excellencies, and beauties, fulness, and preciousness, etc. And when Christ is said to be made wisdom to us, this is a plain proof that we must learn all our spiritual wisdom from an acquaintance with his person; though some duller men can understand no more by it than the wisdom of those revelations Christ has made of God's will to the world." I would beg of this man, that if he has any regard unto the honour of Christian religion, or care of his own soul, he would be tender in this matter, and not reflect with his usual disdain upon the knowledge of the person of Christ. I must tell him again, what all Christians believe, - Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God incarnate. The person of Christ is Christ himself, and nothing else; his personal excellencies are the properties of his person, as his two natures are united therein, and as he was thereby made meet to be the mediator between God and man. To know Christ in the language of the Scripture, [of] the whole church of God ancient and present, in common sense and understanding, is to know the person of Christ as revealed and declared in the gospel, with respect unto the ends for which he is proposed and made known therein. And this knowledge of him, as it is accompanied with, and cannot be without, the knowledge of his mind and will, declared in his precepts, promises, and institutions, is effectual to work and produce, in the souls of them who so know him, that faith in him, and obedience unto him, which he does require. And what would this man have? He who is otherwise minded has renounced his Christianity, if ever he had any; and if he be thus persuaded, to what purpose is it to set up and combat the mormos and chimeras of his own imagination? Well, then, I do maintain, that to know Christ according to the gospel, is to know the person of Christ; for Christ and his person are the same. Would he now have me to prove this by testimonies or arguments, or the consent of the ancient church? I must beg his excuse at present; and so for the future, unless I have occasion to deal with Gnostics, Familists, or Quakers. And as for the latter clause, wherein Christ is said to be made wisdom unto us, he says, "Some duller men can understand no more by it than the wisdom of those revelations Christ has made of God's will to the world," - who are dull men indeed, and so let them pass. His ensuing discourses, in pp. 103-105, contain the boldest reflections on, and openest derisions of, the expressions and way of teaching spiritual things warranted in and by the Scripture, that to my knowledge I ever read in a book licensed to be printed by public authority: as, in particular, the expressions of faith in Christ, by "coming unto him," and "receiving of him," - which are the words of the Holy Ghost, and used by him in his wisdom to instruct us in the nature of this duty, - are, amongst others, the subjects of his scorn. The first part of it, though I remember not to have given any occasion to be particularly concerned in it, I shall briefly consider. P. 103, "Thus when men have first learned, from an acquaintance with Christ, to place all their hopes of salvation in a personal union with Christ, from whom they receive the free communications of pardon and grace, righteousness and salvation, what more plain proof can any man who is resolved to believe this, desire of it, than 1 John 5: 12, 'He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son has not life?' And what can having the Son signify, but having an interest in him, being made one with him? though some will be so perverse as to understand it of believing, and having his gospel. But the phrase of 'having the Son,' confutes that dull and moral interpretation, especially when we remember it is called, 'being in Christ, and abiding in him;' which must signify a very near union between Christ's person and us." I suppose that expression of "personal union" sprung out of design, and not out of ignorance; for, if I mistake not, he does somewhere in his book take notice that it is disclaimed, and only a union of believers with or unto the person of Christ asserted; or, if it be his mistake, all comes to the same issue. Personal, or hypostatical union, is that of different natures in the same person, giving them the same singular subsistence. This none pretend unto with Jesus Christ. But it is the union of believers unto the person of Christ which is spiritual and mystical, whereby they are in him and he in them, and so are one with him, their head, as members of his mystical body, which is pleaded for herein, with the free communications of grace, righteousness, and salvation, in the several and distinct ways whereby we are capable to receive them from him, or be made partakers of them; [in this] we place all hopes of salvation. And we do judge, moreover, that he who is otherwise minded must retake himself unto another gospel; for he completely renounceth that in our Bibles. Is this our crime, - that which we are thus charged with, and traduced for? Is the contrary hereunto the doctrine that the present church of England approveth and instructs her children in? Or does any man think that we will be scared from our faith and hope by such weak and frivolous attempts against them? Yea, but it may be it is not so much the thing itself, as the miserable proof which we produce from the Scripture in the confirmation of it; for we do it from that of the apostle, 1 John 5: 12. If he think that we prove these things only by this testimony, he is mistaken at his wonted rate. Our faith herein is built upon innumerable express testimonies of the Scripture, - indeed the whole revelation of the will of God and the way of salvation by Jesus Christ in the gospel. Those who prove it, also, from this text, have sufficient ground and reason for what they plead. And, notwithstanding the pleasant scoffing humour of this author, we yet say that it is perverse folly for any one to say that the having of the Son or Christ expressed in the text, does intend either the having an interest in him and union with him, or the obeying of his gospel, exclusively to the other, - these being inseparable, and included in the same expression. And as to what he adds about being in Christ, and abiding in him, - which are the greatest privileges of believers, and that as expressed in words taught by the Holy Ghost, - it is of the same strain of profaneness with much of what ensues; which I shall not farther inquire into. I find not myself concerned in his ensuing talk, but only in one reflection on the words of the Scripture, and the repetition of his old, putid, and shameless calumny, p. 108, until we come to p. 126, where he arraigns an occasional discourse of mine about the necessity of holiness and good works; wherein he has only filched out of the whole what he thought he could wrest unto his end, and scoffingly descant upon. I shall, therefore, for once, transcribe the whole passage as it lies in my book, and refer it to the judgement of the reader, p, 206: - "2. The second objection is, "That if the righteousness and obedience of Christ to the law be imputed unto us, then what need we yield obedience ourselves?" To this, also, I shall return answer as briefly as I can in the ensuing observations: - "(1.) The placing of our gospel obedience on the right foot of account (that it may neither be exalted into a state, condition, use, or end, not given it of God; nor any reason, cause, motive, end, necessity of it, on the other hand, taken away, weakened, or impaired), is a matter of great importance. Some make our obedience, the works of faith, our works, the matter or cause of our justification; some, the condition of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ; some, the qualification of the person justified, on the one hand; some exclude all the necessity of them, and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, on the other. To debate these differences is not my present business; only, I say, on this and other accounts, the right stating of our obedience is of great importance as to our walking with God. "(2.) We do by no means assign the same place, condition, state, and use to the obedience of Christ imputed to us, and our obedience performed to God. If we did, they were really inconsistent. And therefore those who affirm that our obedience is the condition or cause of our justification, do all of them deny the imputation of the obedience of Christ unto us. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, as that on the account whereof we are accepted and esteemed righteous before God, and are really so, though not inherently. We are as truly righteous with the obedience of Christ imputed to us as Adam was, or could have been, by a complete righteousness of his own performance. So Rom. 5: 18, by his obedience we are made righteous, - made so truly, and so accepted; as by the disobedience of Adam we are truly made trespassers, and so accounted. And this is that which the apostle desires to be found in, in opposition to his own righteousness, Phil 3: 9. But our own obedience is not the righteousness whereupon we are accepted and justified before God; although it be acceptable to God that we should abound therein. And this distinction the apostle does evidently deliver and confirm, so as nothing can be more clearly revealed: Eph. 2: 8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has prepared that we should walk in them." We are saved, or justified (for that it is whereof the apostle treats), "by grace through faith," which receives Jesus Christ and his obedience; "not of works, lest any man should boast." "But what works are they that the apostle intends?" The works of believers, as in the very beginning of the next words is manifest: "'For we are,' we believers, with our obedience and our works, of whom I speak." "Yea; but what need, then, of works?" Need still there is: "We are his workmanship," etc. "Two things the apostle intimates in these words: - "[1.] A reason why we cannot be saved by works, - namely, because we do them not in or by our own strength; which is necessary we should do, if we will be saved by them, or justified by them. "But this is not so," saith the apostle; "for we are the workmanship of God," etc.; - all our works are wrought in us, by full and effectual undeserved grace. "[2.] An assertion of the necessity of good works, notwithstanding that we are not saved by them; and that is, that God has ordained that we shall walk in them: which is a sufficient ground of our obedience, whatever be the use of it. "If you will say then, "What are the true and proper gospel grounds, reasons, uses, and motives of our obedience; whence the necessity thereof may be demonstrated, and our souls be stirred up to abound and be fruitful therein?" I say, they are so many, and lie so deep in the mystery of the gospel and dispensation of grace, spread themselves so throughout the whole revelation of the will of God unto us, that to handle them fully and distinctly, and to give them their due weight, is a thing that I cannot engage in, lest I should be turned aside from what I principally intend. I shall only give you some brief heads of what might at large be insisted on: - "1st. Our universal obedience and good works are indispensably necessary, from the sovereign appointment and will of God; Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Owen, A Vindication... (continued in File 5...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: owvin-04.txt .