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That there are sundry great and eminent promises, referring to New Testament times, concerning the pouring out of the Spirit, none who is acquainted with the Scriptures and believes them can doubt. By the performance of them a church hath been begotten and maintained in the world through all ages since the ascension of Christ, sometimes with greater light and spiritual lustre, and sometimes with less. It hath been one of the glories of the Protestant Reformation that it hath been accompanied with a very conspicuous and remarkable effusion of the Spirit; and, indeed, thereby there hath from heaven a seal been set and a witness borne unto that great work of God. In this invaluable blessing we in this nation have had a rich and plentiful share, insomuch that it seems Satan and his ministers have been tormented and exasperated thereby; and thence it is come to pass that there have some risen up among us who have manifested themselves to be not only despisers in heart, but virulent reproachers of the operations of the Spirit. God, who knows how to bring good out of evil, did, for holy and blessed ends of his own, suffer those horrid blasphemies to he particularly vented.
On this occasion it was that this great, and learned, and holy person, the author of these discourses, took up thoughts of writing concerning the blessed Spirit and his whole economy, as I understood from himself sundry years ago, discoursing with him concerning some books, then newly published, full of contumely and contempt of the Holy Spirit and his operations; for as it was with Paul at Athens when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry, so was Dr Owen’s spirit stirred in him when he read the scoffs and blasphemies east upon the Holy Spirit and his grace, and gifts, and aids, in some late writers.
Had not Pelagius vented his corrupt opinions concerning the grace of God, it is like the church had never had the learned and excellent writings of Augustine in defence thereof. It appears from Bradwardin that the revival of Pelagianism in his days stirred up his zealous and pious spirit to write that profound and elaborate book of his, “De Causa Dei.” Arminius and the Jesuists, endeavouring to plant the same weed again, produced the scholastic writings of Twisse and Ames (not to mention foreign divines); for which we in this generation have abundant cause of enlarged thankfulness unto the Father of lights. The occasion which the Holy Ghost laid hold on to carry forth Paul to write his Epistle to the Galatians (wherein the doctrine of justification by faith is so fully cleared), was the bringing in among them of “another gospel” by corrupt teachers; after which many in those churches were soon drawn away. The obstinate adherence of many among the Jews to the Mosaical rites and observances, and the inclination of others to apostatize from the New Testament worship and ordinances, was in like manner the occasion of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The light which shines and is held out in these epistles, the church of Christ could ill have wanted.
The like way and working of the wisdom of God is to be seen and adored in stirring up this learned and excellent person to communicate and leave unto the world that light, touching the Spirit and his operations, which he had received by that Spirit from the sacred oracles of truth, the Scriptures.
To what advantage and increase of light it is performed is not for so incompetent a pen to say as writes this. Nevertheless, I doubt not but the discerning reader will observe such excellencies shining out in this and other of this great 354author’s writings, as do greatly commend them to the church of God, and will do so in after ages, however this corrupt and degenerate generation entertain them. They are not the crude, and hasty, and untimely abortions of a self-full, distempered spirit, — much less the boilings-over of inward corruption and rottenness put into a fermentation; but the mature, sedate, and seasonable issues of a rich magazine of learning, well digested with great exactness of judgment. There is in them a great light cast and reflected on, as well as derived from, the holy Scriptures, those inexhaustible mines of light in sacred things. They are not filled with vain, impertinent jangling, nor with a noise of multiplied futilous distinctions, nor with novel and uncouth terms foreign to the things of Gods as the manner of some writers is ad nauseam usque; but there is in them a happy and rare conjunction of firm solidity, enlightening clearness, and heart-searching spiritualness, evidencing themselves all along, and thereby approving and commending his writings to the judgment, conscience, spiritual taste, and experience, of all those who have any acquaintance with and relish of the gospel.
On these and such like accounts the writings of this great and learned man, as also his ordinary sermons, if any of them shall be published (as possibly some of them may), will be, while the world stands, an upbraiding and condemning of this generation, whose vitiated and ill-affected eyes could not bear so great a light set up and shining on a candlestick, and which did therefore endeavour to put it under a bushel.
These two discourses, with those formerly published, make up all that Dr Owen perfected or designed on this subject of the Spirit, as the reader may perceive in the account which himself hath given in his prefaces to some of the former pieces, published by himself in his lifetime. Not but that there are some ether lucubrations of his on subjects nearly allied unto these, which possibly may be published hereafter, — namely, one entitled, “The Evidences of the Faith of God’s Elect,” and perhaps some others. What farther he might have had in his thoughts to do is known to Him whom he served so industriously and so faithfully in his spirit in the gospel while he was here on earth, and with whom he now enjoys the reward of all his labours and all his sufferings; for certain it is concerning Dr Owen, that as God gave him very transcendent abilities, so he did therewithal give him a boundless enlargedness of heart, and unsatiable desire to do service to Christ and his church, insomuch that he was thereby carried on through great bodily weakness, languishing, and pains, besides manifold other trials and discouragements, to bring forth out of his treasury, like a scribe well instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, many useful and excellent fruits of his studies, — much beyond the expectation and hopes of those who saw how often and how long he was near unto the grave.
But while he was thus indefatigably and restlessly laying out for the service of Christ, in this and succeeding generations, those rich talents with which he was furnished, his Lord said unto him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” No man ever yet, but Jesus Christ, was able to finish all that was in his heart to do for God. On the removal of such accomplished and useful persons, I have sometimes relieved myself with this thought, that Christ lives in heaven still, and the blessed Spirit, from whom the head and heart of this chosen vessel were so richly replenished, liveth still.
Nath. Mather 160160 Nathaniel Mather was the son of Richard Mather, an eminent Puritan divine of Lancashire, from whom descended children and grandchildren distinguished as theologians and preachers both in this country and in America. Nathaniel was pastor of a numerous congregation in Lime Street, London, where he died; a.d. 1697. — Ed.
October 27, 1692.
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