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Prefatory note.

John Goodwin, in reply to whom the following large treatise on the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints was written, has been aptly described by Calamy as “a man by himself.” An Arminian in creed, an Independent in church-government, and a Republican in politics, “he was against every man, and had almost every man against him.” Estranged, by a singular idiosyncrasy of opinions, from all the leading parties of his time, dying in such obscurity that no record of the circumstances in which he left the world has been transmitted, stigmatized with unmerited reproach by the chief historian of his age, and long reputed the very type of extravagance and eccentricity in religion and politics, he has been more recently claimed as the precursor of a most influential religious body, and all honour rendered to him as the Wycliffe of Methodism, — anticipating the theological views of its founder, Wesley, and redeeming them from the charge of novelty. Stronger expressions of respect and praise Goodwin never received from his contemporaries than are to be found in the pages of his antagonist, Owen, who, eulogizing his “worth,” his “diligence,” and his “great abilities,” affirms that “nothing not great, not considerable, not in some way eminent, is by any spoken of him, either consenting with him or dissenting from him.”

He was born in Norfolk in 1593, was made a Fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, in 1617, and in 1633, as the choice of the parishioners, was presented to the vicarage of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street, London. He escaped the vengeance of Laud, for some “breach of the canons,” by the premise of amendment and submission for the future. He published in a treatise on justification, entitled “Imputatio Fidei;” in which he maintains that faith, not the righteousness of Christ, “is that which God imputes to a believer for righteousness.” Having rendered himself obnoxious to the Presbyterians during their brief supremacy, partly by his doctrinal sentiments, and partly by his literary efforts against them, he lost his vicarage by a decision of the Committee for Plundered Ministers, in 1645; but he appears to have been reinstated in it during the ascendency of Cromwell, whom he had effectually served by some pamphlets justifying the proceedings of the army against the Parliament in 1648: and more especially by a tract entitled “The Obstructors of Justice,” in which he defended the High Court of Justice in passing sentence of death against Charles I. On the Restoration, by an order of the House of Commons, proceedings were instituted conjointly against John Milton and John Goodwin, for the same crime of publishing in vindication of the king’s death. After a debate of several hours, it was agreed in Parliament that the life of Goodwin should be spared; but as he was declared incapable of holding any office, ecclesiastical, civil, or military, he was again deprived of his vicarage. His death took place in 1665. His private character seems to have been beyond reproach. The odium resting on his memory must be ascribed chiefly to his defence of the execution of Charles I., and to the statements of Bishop Burnet respecting his connection with the Fifth-monarchy Men. On the former point many good men privately held the same opinion as Goodwin; and some, such as Canne and Milton, published in defence of it. When Burnet accuses him of being “thorough-paced in temporal matters” for Cromwell, there might be a colour of truth in the charge: but when he speaks of Goodwin as “heading” the Fifth-monarchy Men, filling all men with the expectation of a millennium, “that it looked like a madness possessing them,” and representing kingship as “the great antichrist that hindered Christ being set on his throne;” and when Toplady, improving upon the story, insinuates that Venner, the leader of these fanatics in their insurrection preached and held his meetings in Goodwin’s place of worship, for no reason that we can discover but that Goodwin and Venner seem to have held their meetings in the same street, we are constrained to question both the accuracy 3of the statement as well as the spirit from which it emanated. His enemies, such as Prynne and Edwards, never in all they wrote against him urged such an accusation. In his own writings he affirms the lawfulness of civil magistracy, and of monarchy in particular; and in some of his tracts condemns the excesses of the Fifth-monarchy Men. The specific statements of Burnet, however, cannot well be met by a general charge against him as an inaccurate historian. Mr Macaulay has thrown over the bishop the shield of his high authority, denouncing such a charge as “altogether unjust.” Goodwin may have held some millenarian views akin to the notion of a fifth monarchy, while he blames in severe terms the attempt to forestall and introduce it by violence and bloodshed. In one of the passages from his writings, quoted by Professor Jackson, in his able but somewhat impassioned biography of Goodwin, in order to disprove his connection with the Fifth-monarchy Men, there is a sentence which, discriminating the dogma itself from the excesses of its abettors, sustains our conjecture, and we have seen nothing in the other passages inconsistent with it:— “Amongst the persons known by the name of the Fifth-monarchy Men (not so much from their opinion touching the said monarchy, as by that fierce and restless spirit which worketh in them to bring it into the world by unhallowed methods), you will learn to speak evil of those that are in dignity,” etc. On this supposition, while committed to some premillennial notions, on which the representations of the bishop were founded, Goodwin might be altogether undeserving of the odious imputation which they affix upon his memory.

It was no weak fanatic, therefore, against whom Owen in this instance entered the lists. His work, “Redemption Redeemed,” is a monument of literary diligence and ability; and Owen seems almost to envy the copious and powerful diction which enlivens its controversial details. It was his intention to discuss all the points embraced in the Quinquarticular Controversy; but he overtook only two of them in the work now mentioned, — universal redemption, and the perseverance of the saints. The latter topic, occupying about a third part of his work, naturally arose out of the former, when he sought to prove that Christ died for those who ultimately perish, even though for a season they may have been in a state of grace. Owen, in his reply, confines himself to the subject of the perseverance of the saints; first proving the doctrine by general arguments, and then considering its practical effects in the obedience and consolation of the saints, a minute refutation of Goodwin’s views being interwoven with both parts of his work. On the subject of universal redemption our author had already given his views to the world in his treatise, “The Death of Death,” etc. Long as the following treatise is, however, he intimates his desire to enter still farther on some points in which he was at issue with Goodwin. Though the present work was written while he was burdened with heavy duties as Vice-Chancellor at Oxford, the former part of it is prepared with sufficient care, and relieved with some sprightliness in the composition. The leading fallacy of his opponent, in supposing that the perseverance of the saints implied the continuance of men in gracious privilege though they should become wicked to a degree incompatible with genuine faith, and evincing that they never possessed it, — a fallacy which begs the whole question in dispute, — he compares to “a sturdy beggar,” which hath been “often corrected, and sent away grumbling and hungry, and, were it not for pure necessity, would never once be owned any more by its master.” The latter part of the work, though able and dexterous in tracking all the sinuosities of the opposing arguments, betrays haste in composition, occasioning unusual difficulty in eliciting, by amended punctuation, the real meaning of many paragraphs and sentences; and the termination is singularly abrupt. He had reserved one of his principal arguments, founded on the oath of God, for the close, as entitled to the “honour of being the last word in the contest;” but concludes without giving it any place in the discussion at all. Perhaps this haste and abruptness are to be explained by the fact that before he had finished this work, the commands of the Council of State were laid upon him to undertake a reply to the Socinian productions of Biddle; — a task which he executed at great length in his “Vindiciæ Evangelicæ.” On the whole, however, in regard to the present work, there is no treatise in the language so conclusive and so complete in vindication of the doctrine which it is designed to illustrate and defend.

In the preface a historical account is given of the doctrine from the earliest ages of the church. The confusion alleged to exist in it is not very perplexing, if attention be paid to the “catena patrum,” — the succession of authors to whom he appeals in proof of what the view of the church has been in past ages on the subject of the doctrine under consideration. It is embarrassed, however, by a discussion of the authenticity of the Ignatian Epistles; on which, at the close of the preface, we have appended a note, indicating the present state of the controversy respecting them. The leading 4head-lines we have given to each chapter will enable the reader, it is hoped, to follow with greater ease the course of discussion. An exact copy of the original title-page has been prefixed; — the only one in our author’s works worth preserving, as curious in itself, and containing his own analysis of the work to which it belongs.

Besides this work of Owen, in reply to Goodwin the following authors appeared:— Dr George Kendall, rector of Blisland, near Bodmin in Cornwall, in two folio volumes, “Theocratia, or a Vindication of the Doctrine commonly received,” etc., 1653, and “Sancti Sanciti,” etc.; Thomas Lamb, a Baptist minister, in his “Absolute Freedom from Sin by Christ’s Death,” etc., 1656; Robert Baillie, Principal of Glasgow University, in his “Scotch Antidote against the English Infection of Arminianism,” etc., 1656; Richard Resbury, vicar of Oundle, in his “Some Stop to the Gangrene of Arminianism,” etc., 1651, whom Goodwin answered in his “Confidence Dismounted,” and who again published in reply, “The Lightless Star;” Henry Jeanes, rector of Chedsey, who published “A Vindication of Dr Twisse from the Exceptions of Mr John Goodwin;” and Mr John Pawson, in a sermon under the title of “A Vindication of Free Grace.”

In 1658 Goodwin replied to most of these publications in a quarto of five hundred pages, entitled “Triumviri,” etc. In regard to the following treatise, “he returns,” says Owen, in an epistle dedicatory to his work on the Divine Original of the Scriptures, “a scoffing reply to so much of it as was written in a quarter of an hour.”

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