« Prev To the right honourable the lords and gentlemen… Next »
5

To the right honourable the lords and gentlemen of the committee for religion.11   This committee was appointed by the House of Lords, March 12, 1640. It sometimes bears the name of the Committee of Accommodation, and consisted of ten earls, ten bishops, and ten barons. To prepare the subjects of discussion, some bishops and several divines of different persuasions were appointed a sub-committee. The duty of the committee was to examine all innovations in doctrine and discipline, illegally introduced into the church since the Reformation. See Neal’s History, vol. ii. 395. — Ed.

The many ample testimonies of zealous reverence to the providence of God, as well as affectionate care for the privileges of men, which have been given by this honourable assembly of parliament, encourage the adorers of the one, no less than the lovers of the other, to vindicate that also from the encroachments of men. And as it was not, doubtless, without divine disposition that those should be the chiefest agents in robbing men of their privileges who had nefariously attempted to spoil God of his providence; so we hope the same all-ruling hand hath disposed of them to be glorious instruments of re-advancing his right and supreme dominion over the hearts of men whose hearts he hath prepared with courage and constancy to establish men in their inviolated rights, by reducing a sweet harmony between awful sovereignty and a well-moderated liberty. Now, the first of these being demandated to your particular care, I come unto you with a bill of complaint against no small number in this kingdom, who have wickedly violated our interest in the providence of God, and have attempted to bring in the foreign power of an old idol, to the great prejudice of all the true subjects and servants of the Most High. My accusation I make good by the evidence of the fact, joined with their own confessions. And because, to waive the imputation of violent intrusion into the dominion of another, they lay some claim and pretend some title unto it, I shall briefly show how it is contrary to the express terms of the great charter of Heaven to have any such power introduced amongst men. Your known love to truth and the gospel of Christ makes it altogether needless for me to stir you up by any motives to hearken to this just complaint, and provide a timely remedy for this growing evil; especially since experience hath so clearly taught us here, in England, that not only eternal but temporal happiness also dependeth on the flourishing of the truth of Christ’s gospel.

Justice and religion were always conceived as the main columns and upholders of any state or commonwealth; like two pillars in a building, whereof the one cannot stand without the other, nor the whole fabric without them both. As the philosopher spake of logic and rhetoric, they are artes ἀντίστροφαι, mutually aiding each other, and both aiming at the same end, though in different manners; so they, without repugnancy, concur and sweetly fall in one with another, for the reiglement and direction of every person in a commonwealth, to make the whole happy and blessed: and where they are both thus united, there, and only there, is the blessing in assurance whereof Hezekiah rejoiced, — truth and peace. An agreement without truth is no peace, but a covenant with death, a league with hell, a conspiracy against the kingdom of Christ, a stout rebellion against the God of heaven; and without justice, great commonwealths are but great troops of robbers. Now, the result of the one of these is civil peace; of the other, ecclesiastical: betwixt which 6two there is a great sympathy, a strict connection, having on each other a mutual dependence. Is there any disturbance of the state? it is usually attended with schisms and factions in the church; and the divisions of the church are too often even the subversions of the commonwealth. Thus it hath been ever since that unhappy difference between Cain and Abel; which was not concerning the bounds and limits of their inheritance, nor which of them should be heir to the whole world, but about the dictates of religion, the offering of their sacrifices. This fire, also, of dissension hath been more stirred up since the Prince of Peace hath, by his gospel, sent the sword amongst us; for the preaching thereof, meeting with the strongholds of Satan and the depraved corruption of human nature, must needs occasion a great shaking of the earth. But most especially, distracted Christendom hath found fearful issues of this discord, since the proud Romish prelates have sought to establish their hell-broached errors, by inventing and maintaining uncharitable, destructive censures against all that oppose them: which, first causing schisms and distractions in the church, and then being helped forward by the blindness and cruelty of ambitious potentates, have raised war of nation against nation, — witness the Spanish invasion of ’88;22   He alludes to the attempted invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588. In France the civil wars on account of religion were terminated about 1628, when the Protestants secured the confirmation of the Edict of Nantes, but lost possession of the towns that had been given in guarantee for the faithful observance of it. — Ed. [and war] of a people within themselves, as in the late civil wars of France, where, after divers horrible massacres, many chose rather to die soldiers than martyrs.

And, oh, that this truth might not, at this day, be written with the blood of almost expiring Ireland! Yea, it hath lastly descended to dissension betwixt private parties, — witness the horrible murder of Diazius, whose brains were chopped out with an axe by his own brother Alphonsus,33   Sleid. Com. for forsaking the Romish religion; what rents in [the] State, what grudgings, hatreds, and exasperations of mind among private men, have happened by reason of some inferior differences, we all at this day grieve to behold. “Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!” Most concerning, then, is it for us to endeavour obedience to our Saviour’s precept, of seeking first the kingdom of God, that we may be partakers of the good things comprised in the promise annexed. Were there but this one argument for to seek the peace of the church, because thereon depends the peace of the commonwealth, it were sufficient to quicken our utmost industry for the attaining of it. Now, what peace in the church without truth? All conformity to anything else is but the agreement of Herod and Pilate to destroy Christ and his kingdom. Neither is it this or that particular truth, but the whole counsel of God revealed unto us, without adding or detracting, whose embracement is required to make our peace firm and stable. No halting betwixt Jehovah and Baal, Christ and Antichrist; as good be all Philistine, and worshippers of Dagon, as to speak part the language of Ashdod and part the language of the Jews: hence, hence hath been the rise of all our miseries, of all our dissensions, whilst factious men laboured every day to commend themselves to them who sat aloft in the temple of God, by introducing new popish-arminian errors, whose patronage they had wickedly undertaken. Who would have thought that our church would ever have given entertainment to these Belgic semi-Pelagians, who have cast dirt upon the faces and raked up the ashes of all those great and pious souls whom God magnified, in using as his instruments to reform his church; to the least of which the whole troop of Arminians shall never make themselves equal, though they swell till they break? What benefit did ever come to this church by attempting to prove that the chief part in the several degrees of our salvation is to be ascribed unto ourselves, rather than God? — which is the head and sum of all the controversies between them and us. And must not the introducing and fomenting of a doctrine so opposite to that truth our church hath quietly enjoyed 7ever since the first Reformation necessarily bring along with it schisms and dissensions, so long as any remain who love the truth, or esteem the gospel above preferment? Neither let any deceive your wisdoms, by affirming that they are differences of an inferior nature that are at this day agitated between the Arminians and the orthodox divines of the reformed church. Be pleased but to cast an eye on the following instances, and you will find them hewing at the very root of Christianity. Consider seriously their denying of that fundamental article of original sin. Is this but a small escape in theology? — why, what need of the gospel, what need of Christ himself, if our nature be not guilty, depraved, corrupted? Neither are many of the rest of less importance. Surely these are not things “in quibus possimus dissentire salvâ pace ac charitate,” as Austin speaks, — “about which we may differ without loss of peace or charity.” One church cannot wrap in her communion Austin and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius. I have here only given you a taste, whereby you may judge of the rest of their fruit, — “mors in olla, mors in olla;” their doctrine of the final apostasy of the elect, of true believers, of a wavering hesitancy concerning our present grace and future glory, with divers others, I have wholly omitted: those I have produced are enough to make their abettors incapable of our church-communion. The sacred bond of peace compasseth only the unity of that Spirit; which leadeth into all truth. We must not offer the right hand of fellowship, but rather proclaim ἱερὸν πόλεμον,44   Greg. Naz. “a holy war,” to such enemies of God’s providence, Christ’s merit, and the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit. Neither let any object, that all the Arminians do not openly profess all these errors I have recounted. Let ours, then, show wherein they differ from their masters.55   Profitentur Remonst. hasce ad promotionem causæ suæ artes adhibere, ut apud vulgus non ulterius progrediantur quam de articulis vulgo notis, ut pro ingeniorum diversitate quosdam lacte diu alant, alios solidiore cibo, etc. — Festus Hom. præstat ad specimen Con. Bel. We see their own confessions; we know their arts, βάθη καὶ μεθοδείας τοῦ Σατανᾶ, — “the depths and crafts of Satan;” we know the several ways they have to introduce and insinuate their heterodoxies into the minds of men. With some they appear only to dislike our doctrine of reprobation; with others, to claim an allowable liberty of the will: but yet, for the most part, — like the serpent, wherever she gets in her head, she will wriggle in her whole body, sting and all, — give but the least admission, and the whole poison must be swallowed. What was the intention of the maintainers of these strange assertions amongst us I know not, — whether the efficacy of error prevailed really with them or no, or whether it were the better to comply with Popery, and thereby to draw us back again unto Egypt; — but this I have heard, that it was affirmed on knowledge, in a former parliament, that the introduction of Arminianism amongst us was the issue of a Spanish consultation. It is a strange story that learned Zanchius66   Hieron. Zanch. ad Holderum. Res. Miscel. tells us, how, upon the death of the Cardinal of Lorraine there was found in his study a note of the names of divers German doctors and ministers, being Lutherans, to whom was paid an annual pension, by the assignment of the cardinal, that they might take pains to oppose the Calvinists; and so, by cherishing dissension, reduce the people again to Popery. If there be any such amongst us, who, upon such poor inconsiderable motives, would be won to betray the gospel of Christ, God grant them repentance before it be too late! However, upon what grounds, with what intentions, for what ends soever, these tares have been sowed amongst us by envious men, the hope of all the piously learned in the kingdom is, that, by your effectual care and diligence, some means may be found to root them out. Now, God Almighty increase and fill your whole honourable society with wisdom, zeal, knowledge, and all other Christian graces, necessary for your great calling and employments; which is the daily prayer, of your most humble and devoted servant,

John Owen.


« Prev To the right honourable the lords and gentlemen… Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |