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6

To the right worshipful, his reverend, learned, and worthy friends and brethren, the heads and governors of the colleges and halls, with all other students in divinity, or of the truth which is after godliness, in the famous University of Oxford.

Of this second address unto you in this kind, whereunto I am encouraged by your fair and candid reception of my former, I desire you would be pleased to take the ensuing account. It is now, as I remember, about a year ago since one Mr Biddle (formerly a master of arts of this university, by which title he still owns himself) published two little Catechisms, as he calls them, wherein, under sundry specious pleas and pretences, which you will find discussed in the ensuing treatise, he endeavours to insinuate subtilely into the minds of unstable and unlearned men the whole substance of the Socinian religion. The man is a person whom, to my knowledge, I never saw, nor have been at all curious to inquire after the place of his habitation or course of his life. His opposition some years since to the deity of the Holy Ghost, and now to that of the Father and Son also, is all that he is known to me by. It is not with his person that I have any contest; he stands or falls to his own master. His arguments against the deity of the Holy Ghost were some while since answered by Cloppenburgh, then professor of divinity at Franeker, in Friesland, since at rest in the Lord; and, as I have heard, by one in English. His Catechisms also are gone over the seas; whereof farther mention must afterward be made. At their first publishing, complaint being given in by some worthy persons to the Honourable Council against them, as abusive to the majesty and authority of the word of God, and destructive to many important truths of the gospel (which was done without any knowledge of mine), they were pleased to send for me, and to require of me the performance of that work which is here presented unto you. Being surprised with their request, I laboured to excuse myself to the utmost, on the account of my many employments in the university and elsewhere, with other reasons of the like nature, which to my thoughts did then occur. [Not prevailing with them, they persisting in their command, I looked on it as a call from God to plead for his violated truth; which, by his assistance, and according as I had opportunity, I was in general alway resolved to do. Having, indeed, but newly taken off my hand from the plough of a peculiar controversy about the perseverance of the saints, in the following whereof I was somewhat tired, the entrance into the work was irksome and burdensome unto me. After some progress made, finding the searching into and discussing of the important truths opposed of very good use to myself, I have been carried through the whole (according as I could break off my daily pressing occasions to attend unto it) with much cheerfulness and alacrity of mind. And this was the reason why, finding Mr Biddle came short of giving a fair occasion to the full vindication of many heads of religion by him oppugned, I have called in to his assistance and society one of his great masters, namely, Valentinus Smalcius, and his Catechism (commonly called the Racovian), with the expositions of the places 7of Scripture contended about by the learned Grotius, as also, on several occasions, the arguments and answers of most of the chief propugners of Mr Biddle’s religion. Now, besides your interest in the truths pleaded for, there are other considerations also inducing me to a persuasion that this endeavour of mine will not be unacceptable unto you. Mr Biddle’s Catechisms, as I said, being carried over and dispersed in sundry places of the United Provinces, the professors of their academies (who have all generally learned the English tongue, to enable them for the understanding of the treatises of divinity in all kinds written therein, which they begin to make use of to the purpose) cry out against them, and professedly undertake the refutation thereof. Now, certainly it cannot be for our advantage in point of repute amongst them, that they (who are yet glad of the occasion) should be enforced to undertake the confutation of a book written by one who styles himself a master of arts of this university (which they also take notice of), wherein they are so little concerned, the poison of it being shut up from their people under the safe custody of an unknown tongue. Nicolaus Arnoldus, the professor of divinity at Franeker, gives an account of this book, as the most subtile insinuation of the Socinian religion that ever was attempted, and promises a confutation of it.

Maresius, professor at Groningen, a man well known by his works published, goes farther, and, on the account of these Catechisms, charges the whole nation and the governors of it with Socinianism; and, according to the manner of the man, raises a fearful outcry, affirming that that heresy hath fixed its metropolitical seat here in England, and is here openly professed, as the head sect in the nation, displaying openly the banners of its iniquity: all which he confirms by instancing in this book of a master of arts of the university of Oxford.11   “Prodiit hoc anno in Anglia, authore Johanne Bidello, artium magistro, pneumatomacho, duplex Catechesis Scripturaria, Anglico idiomate typis evulgata, qua sub nomine religionis Christianæ purum putum Socinianismum, orbi Christiano obtrudere satagit. Quanquam autem non videatur velle Socinianus haberi; attamen cujus sit ingenii, sub finem libelli prodit, cum commendat librum cui titulus, ‘The life of that incomparable man, Faustus Socinus Senensis,’ phrasin Scripturæ ad dogmata mere Sociniana ita detorait ut nemo ante eum hæreain istam tam fraudulenter instillarit; larvam illi detrahere post dies caniculares, cum Deo eat animus.” — Nicol. Arnold. præf ad lector.
   “Necessarium est hoc tristi tempore, quo Sociniana pestis, quam haud immerito dixeris omnis impietatis ἀκρόπολιν, videtur nune in vicina Anglia sedem aibi metropolitanam fixisse, nisi quod isthic cile admittat et bells cruent3, et Judicia capitalis severissima, sub quorum umbone crevit. Nam inter varias hæreses, quibus felix ilia quondam insula et orthodoxiæ tenacissima hodie conspurcatur, tantum eminet Socinianismus, quantum ‘lenta solent inter viburna Cupressi;’ nec enim amplius ibi horrenda sua mysteria mussitat in angulis, sed sub dio explicat omnia vexilla suæ iniquitatis: non loquor incomperta, benevole lector. Modo enim ex Anglia allatus eat Anglica lingua conscriptus Catechismus duplex, major et minor, Londini publice excusus, hoc anno 1654, spud Jac. Coterell, et Rich. Moone, etc., authore Johane Bidello, magistro artium Oxoniensi, etc.” — Sam. Mares. Hyd. Socin. Refut. tom. ii. præfat. ad lect.
Of his rashness in censuring, and his extreme ignorance of the state of affairs here amongst us, which yet he undertakes to relate, judge, and condemn, I have given him an account, in a private letter to himself.

Certainly, though we deserved to have these reproaches cast upon us, yet of all men in the world those who live under the protection and upon the allowance of the United Provinces are most unmeet to manage them; their incompetency in sundry respects for this service is known to all. However, it cannot be denied but that, even on this account (that it may appear that we are, as free from the guilt of the calumnious insinuations of Maresius, so in no need of the assistance of Arnoldus for the confutation of any one arising among ourselves speaking perverse things to draw disciples after him), an answer from some in this place unto those Catechisms was sufficiently necessary. That it is by Providence fallen upon the hand of one more unmeet than many others in this place for the performance of this work and duty, I doubt not but you will be contented withal; and I am bold to hope that neither the truth nor your own esteem will too much suffer by my engagement herein. Yea (give me leave to speak it), I have assumed the confidence to aim at the handling of the whole body of the Socinian religion, in such a way and manner as that those who are most knowing and exercised in these controversies may find that which they will not altogether despise, and younger students 8that whereby they may profit. To this end I have added the Racovian Catechism, as I said before, to Mr Biddle’s; which as I was urged to do by many worthy persons in this university, so I was no way discouraged in the publishing of my answer thereunto by the view I took of Arnoldus’ discourse to the same purpose, and that for such reasons as I shall not express, but leave the whole to the judgment of the reader.

From thence whence in the thoughts of some I am most likely to suffer, as to my own resolves, I am most secure. It is in meddling with GrotiusAnnotations, and calling into question what hath been delivered by such a giant in all kinds of literature. Since my engagement in this business, and when I had well-nigh finished the vindication of the texts of Scripture commonly pleaded for the demonstration of the deity of Christ from the exceptions put in to their testimonies by the Racovian Catechism, I had the sight of Dr Hammond’s apology for him, in his vindication of his dissertations about episcopacy from my occasional animadversions, published in the preface of my book of the Perseverance of the Saints. Of that whole treatise I shall elsewhere give an account. My defensative, as to my dealing with GrotiusAnnotations, is suited to what the doctor pleads in his behalf, which occasions this mention thereof:—

“This very pious, learned, judicious man,” he tells us, “hath fallen under some harsh censures of late, especially upon the account of Socinianism and Popery.” That is, not as though he would reconcile these extremes, but being in doctrinals a Socinian, he yet closed in many things with the Roman interest; as I no way doubt but thousands of the same persuasion with the Socinians as to the person and offices of Christ do live in the outward communion of that church (as they call it) to this day; of which supposal I am not without considerable grounds and eminent instances for its confirmation. This, I say, is their charge upon him. For his being a Socinian, he tells us, “Three things are made use of to beget a jealousy in the minds of men of his inclinations that way:— 1. Some parcels of a letter of his to Crellius; 2. Some relations of what passed from him at his death; 3. Some passages in his Annotations.” It is this last alone wherein I am concerned; and what I have to speak to them, I desire may be measured and weighed by what I do premise. It is not that I do entertain in myself any hard thoughts, or that I would beget in others any evil surmises, of the eternal condition of that man that I speak what I do. What am I that I should judge another man’s servant? He is fallen to his own master. I am very slow to judge of men’s acceptation with God by the apprehension of their understandings. This only I know, that be men of what religion soever that is professed in the world, if they are drunkards, proud, boasters, etc., hypocrites, haters of good men, persecutors and revilers of them, yea, if they be not regenerate and born of God, united to the head, Christ Jesus, by the same Spirit that is in him, they shall never see God.

But for the passages in his Annotations, the substance of the doctor’s plea is, “That the passages intimated are in his posthuma; that he intended not to publish them; that they might be of things he observed, but thought farther to consider;” and an instance is given in that of Col. i. 16, which he interprets contrary to what he urged it for, John i. 1–3. But granting what is affirmed as to matter of fact about his Collections (though the preface to the last part of his Annotations will not allow it to be true22   “Jam vero sciendum est: multo quidem citius, quam nunc demure temporis eam resumi, absolque potuisse, et quo minus id jampridem factum sit, per eum non stetisse virum, cujus fideli curæ opus integrum ab authore ipso primum creditum fuit et sedulo commendatum.” — Præmon, ad Lect.), I must needs abide in my dissatisfaction as to these Annotations, and of my resolves in these thoughts give the doctor this account. Of the Socinian religion there are two main parts; the first is Photinianism, the latter Pelagianism, — the first concerning the person, the other the grace of Christ. Let us take an eminent instance out of either of these heads: out of the first, their denying Christ to be God by nature; out of the latter, their denial of his satisfaction.

9For the first, I must needs tell the apologist, that of all the texts of the New Testament, and Old, whereby the deity of Christ is usually confirmed, and where it is evidently testified unto, he hath not left any more than one, that I have observed, if one, speaking any thing clearly to that purpose. I say, if one, for that he speaks not home to the business in hand on John i. I shall elsewhere give an account; perhaps some one or two more may be interpreted according to the analogy of that. I speak not of his Annotations on the Epistles, but on the whole Bible throughout, wherein his expositions given do, for the most part, fall in with those of the Socinians, and oftentimes consist in the very words of Socinus and Smalcius, and alway do the same things with them, as to any notice of the deity of Christ in them. So that I marvel the learned doctor should fix upon one particular instance, as though that one place alone were corrupted by him, when there is not one (or but one) that is not wrested, perverted, and corrupted, to the same purpose. For the full conviction of the truth hereof, I refer the reader to the ensuing considerations of his interpretations of the places themselves. The condition of these famous Annotations as to the satisfaction of Christ is the same. Not one text of the whole Scripture, wherein testimony is given to that sacred truth, which is not wrested to another sense, or at least the doctrine in it concealed and obscured by them. I do not speak this with the least intention to cast upon him the reproach of a Socinian; I judge not his person. His books are published to be considered and judged. Erasmus, I know, made way for him in most of his expositions about the deity of Christ; but what repute he hath thereby obtained among all that honour the eternal Godhead of the Son of God, let Bellarmine, on the one hand, and Beza, on the other, evince. And as I will by no means maintain or urge against Grotius any of the miscarriages in religion which the answerer of my animadversions undertakes to vindicate him from, nor do I desire to fight with the dust and ashes of men; yet what I have said is, if not necessary to return to the apologist, yet of tendency, I hope, to the satisfaction of others, who may inquire after the reason of my calling the Annotations of the learned man to an account in this discourse. Shall any one take liberty to pluck down the pillars of our faith, and weaken the grounds of our assurance concerning the person and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and shall not we have the boldness to call him to an account for so sacrilegious an attempt? With those, then, who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, I expect no blame or reproach for what I have endeavoured in this kind; yea, that my good will shall find acceptance with them, especially if it shall occasion any of greater leisure and abilities farther and professedly to remark more of the corruptions of those Annotations, I have good ground of expectation. The truth is, notwithstanding their pompous show and appearance — few of his quotations (which was the manner of the man) being at all to his purpose33   “Grotius, in lib. v. De Veritat. Relig. Christian. in notis R. Sel. Aben Ezra et Onkelos adducit. Sed alienis oculis hic vidit, aut aliena fide retulit (forte authoribus illis aut non intellectis, aut propter occupationes non inspectis), aut animositati et authoritati in citandis authoribus, et referendis dictis aut factis ipsi hoc usui veniebat, nimium in scriptis theologicis indulserit.” — Voet. Disput. de Advent Messi., — it will be found no difficult matter to discuss his assertions and dissipate his conjectures.

For his being a Papist, I have not much to say. Let his epistles (published by his friends) written to Dionysius Petavius the Jesuit be perused, and you will see the character which of himself he gives,44   “Reverende domine, sæpe tibi molestus esse cogorSumpsi hane ultimam operam, mea ante hac dicta et famam quoque a ministris allatrafam tuendi: in eo scripto si quid est, aut Catholicis sententiis discongruens, aut cæteroqui a veritate alienum, de eo abs to viro eruditissimo,” etc. “cujus judicium plurimi facio moneri percupio.” — Epist. Grot. ad Dionys. Petav. Ep. 204. as also what in sundry writings he ascribes to the pope.

What I have performed, through the good hand of God in the whole, is humbly submitted to your judgment. You know, all of you, with what weight of business and employment I am pressed, what is the constant work that in this place 10is incumbent on me, how many and how urgent my avocations are; the consideration whereof cannot but prevail for a pardon of that want of exactness which perhaps in sundry particulars will appear unto you. With those who are neither willing nor able to do any thing in this kind themselves, and yet make it their business to despise what is done by others, I shall very little trouble myself. That which seems, in relation hereunto, to call for an apology, is my engagement into this work, wherein I was not particularly concerned, suffering in the meantime some treatises against me to lie unanswered. Dr Hammond’s answer to my animadversions on his dissertations about episcopacy, Mr Baxter’s objections against somewhat written about the death of Christ, and a book of one Mr Horne against my treatise about universal redemption, are all the instances that I know of which in this kind may be given. To all that candidly take notice of these things, my defence is at hand. I do not know that I am more obliged to answer a treatise written against, myself than any other written against the truth, though I am not particularly named or opposed therein; nor do I intend to put any such law of disquietness upon my spirit as to think myself bound to reply to every thing that is written against me, whether the matter and subject of it be worth the public ventilation or no. It is neither name nor repute that I eye in these contests: so the truth be safe, I can be well content to suffer. Besides, this present task was not voluntarily undertaken by me; it was, as I have already given account, imposed on me by such an authority as I could not waive. For Mr Horne’s book, I suppose you are not acquainted with it; that alone was extant before my last engagement. Could I have met with any one uninterested person that would have said it deserved a reply, it had not have lain so long unanswered. In the meantime, I cannot but rejoice that some, like-minded with him, cannot impute my silence to the weakness of the cause I managed, but to my incompetency for the work of maintaining it. To Mr Baxter, as far as I am concerned, I have made a return in the close of this treatise; wherein I suppose I have put an end to that controversy. Dr Hammond’s defensative came forth much about the time that half this treatise was finished, and being about a matter of so mean concernment, in comparison of those weighty truths of the gospel which I was engaged in the defence of, I durst not desert my station to turn aside thereto. On the cursory view I have taken of it, I look upon what is of real difference between that learned person and myself to be a matter of easy despatch. His leaves are much more soft and gentle than those of Socinus, Smalcius, Crellius, and Schlichtingius. If the Lord in his goodness be pleased to give me a little respite and leisure, I shall give a farther account of the whole difference between the learned doctor and me, in such a way of process as may be expected from so slow and dull a person as I am. In the meantime, I wish him a better cause to manage than that wherein against me he is engaged, and better principles to manage a good cause on than some of those in his treatise of schism, and some others. Fail he not in these, his abilities and diligence will stand him in very good stead. I shall not trouble you with things which I have advantages other ways to impart my thoughts concerning; I only crave that you would be pleased candidly to accept of this testimony of my respects to you, and, seeing no other things are in the ensuing treatise pleaded for but such as are universally owned amongst you, that, according to your several degrees, you would take it into your patronage or use, affording him in his daily labours the benefit of your prayers at the throne of grace, who is your unworthy fellow-labourer,

John Owen

Oxon. Ch. Ch. Coll.,
April 1 [1655.]


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