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To the Reader

Christian Reader,

This small treatise has no other design but thy good, and establishment in the truth. And therefore, as laying aside that consideration alone, I could desirously have been excused from the labour of those hours which were spent in its composure; so in the work itself I admitted no one thought, but how the things treated of in it might and ought to be managed unto thy spiritual benefit and advantage. Other designs most men have in writing what is to be exposed to public view, and lawfully may have so; in this I have nothing but merely thy good. I have neither been particularly provoked nor opposed by the adversaries of the truth here pleaded for; nor have any need, from any self-respect, to publish such a small, plain discourse as this. Love alone to the truth, and the welfare of thy soul, has given efficacy to their importunity who pressed me to this small service.

The matters here treated of are on all hands confessed to be of the greatest moment, such as the eternal welfare of the souls of men is immediately and directly concerned in. This all those who believe the sacred truths here proposed and explained do unanimously profess and contend for; nor is it denied by those by whom they are opposed. There is no need, therefore, to give thee any especial reasons to evince thy concernment in these things, nor the greatness of that concernment, thereby to induce thee unto their serious consideration. It were well, indeed, that these great, sacred, and mysterious truths might, without contention or controversies about them, be left unto the faith of believers, as proposed in the Scripture, with that explanation of them which, in the ordinary ministry and dispensation of the gospel, is necessary and required.

Certainly, these tremendous mysteries are not by us willingly to be exposed, or prostituted to the cavils of every perverse querist and disputer; — those συζητηταὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοá½»του,11   [learned researchers of this century] whose pretended wisdom (indeed ignorance, darkness, and folly) God has designed to confound and destroy in them and by them. For my part, I can assure thee, reader, I have no mind to contend and dispute about these things, which I humbly adore and believe as they are revealed. It is the importunity of adversaries, in their attempts to draw and seduce the souls of men from the truth and simplicity of the gospel in these great fundamentals of it, that alone can justify any to debate upon, or eristically [in the form of controversy] to handle these awful mysteries. This renders it our duty, and that indispensably, inasmuch as we are required to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.” But yet, also, when this necessity is imposed on us, we are by no means discharged from that humble reverence of mind wherewith we ought always to be conversant about them; nor from that regard unto the way and manner of their revelation in the Scripture which may preserve us from all unnecessary intermixture of litigious or exotic phrases and expressions in their assertion and declaration. I know our adversaries could, upon the matter, decry any thing peculiarly mysterious in these things, although they are frequently and emphatically in the Scriptures affirmed so to be. But, whilst they deny the mysteries of the things themselves — which are 368such as every way become the glorious being and wisdom of God, — they are forced to assign such an enigmatical sense unto the words, expressions, and propositions wherein they are revealed and declared in the Scripture, as to turn almost the whole gospel into an allegory, wherein nothing is properly expressed but in some kind of allusion unto what is so elsewhere: which irrational way of proceeding, leaving nothing certain in what is or may be expressed by word or writing, is covered over with a pretence of right reason; which utterly refuses to be so employed. These things the reader will find afterward made manifest, so far as the nature of this brief discourse will bear. And I shall only desire these few things of him that intends its perusal:— First, That he would not look on the subject here treated of as the matter of an ordinary controversy in religion, —

— “Neque enim hic levia aut ludicra petuntur

Præmia; lectoris de vita animæque salute

Certatur.”22 — “Nec enim levia aut ludicra petuntur Præmia, sed Turni de vita et sanguine certant.” Virg. Æn. xii. 764.

They are things which immediately and directly in themselves concern the eternal salvation of the souls of men, and their consideration ought always to be attended with a due sense of their weight and importance. Secondly, Let him bring with him a due reverence of the majesty, and infinite, incomprehensible nature of God, as that which is not to be prostituted to the captious and sophistical scanning of men of corrupt minds, but to be humbly adored, according to the revelation that he has made of himself. Thirdly, That he be willing to submit his soul and conscience to the plain and obvious sense of Scripture propositions and testimonies, without seeking out evasions and pretences for unbelief. These requests I cannot but judge equal, and fear not the success where they are sincerely complied withal.

I have only to add, that in handling the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, I have proceeded on that principle which, as it is fully confirmed in the Scripture, so it has been constantly maintained and adhered unto by the most of those who with judgment and success have managed these controversies against the Socinians: and this is, that the essential holiness of God with his justice or righteousness, as the supreme governor of all, did indispensably require that sin should not absolutely go unpunished; and that it should do so, stands in a repugnancy to those holy properties of his nature. This, I say, has been always constantly maintained by far the greatest number of them who have thoroughly understood the controversy in this matter, and have successfully engaged in it. And as their arguments for their assertion are plainly unanswerable, so the neglect of abiding by it is causelessly to forego one of the most fundamental and invincible principles in our cause. He who first laboured in the defence of the doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, after Socinus had formed his imaginations about the salvation that he wrought, and began to dispute about it, was Covetus,33   The only notice of this divine we can discover will be found in the Bibliotheca of Kongius (1678). All the information he communicates respecting him is in these words: — “Covetus (Jacobus)Parisiensis Theologus. An. 1608 obiit. Reliquit Apologiam de Justificatione.Socinus, in a curious preface to his work, mentioned above, “De Jesu Christo Servatore,” narrates in what manner Covetus and he first happened to meet. They subsequently exchanged communications on the points in dispute between them. It was in reply to the arguments of Covetus in this correspondence, that Socinus wrote the work to which Dr Owen alludes. It is a matter of regret that so little is known of one whom Dr Owen mentions so respectfully, and who had the honour of supplying the first antidote and check to the heresies of Socinus. — Ed. a learned man, who laid the foundation of his whole disputation in the justice of God, necessarily requiring, and indispensably, the punishment of sin. And, indeed, the state of the controversy as it is laid down by Socinus, in his book “De Jesu Christo Servatore,” which is an answer to this Covetus, is genuine, and that which ought not to be receded from, as having been the direct ground of all the controversial writings on that subject which have since been published in Europe. And it is in these words laid down by Socinus himself: 369Communis et orthodoxa (ut asseris) sententia est, Jesum Christum ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia divinæ justitiæ per quam peccatores damnari merebamur, pro peccatis nostris plene satisfecerit; quæ satisfactio, per fidem, imputatur nobis ex dono Dei credentibus.” This he ascribes to Covetus: “The common and orthodox judgment is, that Jesus Christ is therefore our Saviour, because he has satisfied the justice of God, by which we, being sinners, deserved to be condemned for all our sins” [which satisfaction, through faith, is imputed to us who through the grace of God believe.] In opposition whereunto he thus expresses his own opinion: “Ego vero censeo, et orthodoxam sententiam esse arbitror, Jesum Christum ideo servatorem nostrum esse, quia salutis æternæ viam nobis annuntiaverit, confirmaverit, et in sua ipsius persona, cum vitæ examplo, tum ex mortuis resurgendo, manifestè ostenderit; vitamque æternam nobis ei fidem habentibus ipse daturus sit. Divinæ autem justitiæ, per quam peccatores damnari meremur, pro peccatis nostris neque illum satisfecisse, neque et satisfaceret, opus fuisse arbitror;” — “I judge and suppose it to be the orthodox opinion, that Jesus Christ is therefore our Saviour, because he has declared unto us the way of eternal salvation, and confirmed it in his own person; manifestly showing it, both by the example of his life and by rising from the dead; and in that he will give eternal life unto us, believing in him. And I affirm, that he neither made satisfaction to the justice of God, whereby we deserved to be damned for our sins, nor was there any need that he should so do.” This is the true state of the question; and the principal subtlety of Crellius, the great defender of this part of the doctrine of Socinus, in his book of the “Causes of the Death of Christ,” and the defence of this book, “De Jesu Christo Servatore,” consists in speaking almost the same words with those whom he does oppose, but still intending the same things with Socinus himself. This opinion, as was said of Socinus, Covetus opposed and everted on the principle before mentioned.

The same truth was confirmed also by Zarnovitius, who first wrote against Socinus’ book; as also by Otto Casmannus, who engaged in the same work; and by Abraham Salinarius. Upon the same foundation do proceed Paræus, Piscator, Lubbertus, Lucius, Camero, Voetius, Amyraldus, Placæus, Rivetus, Walæus, Thysius, Altingius, Maresius, Essenius, Arnoldus, Turretinus, Baxter, with many others. The Lutherans who have managed these controversies, as Tarnovius, Meisnerus, Calovius, Stegmannus, Martinius, Franzius, with all others of their way, have constantly maintained the same great fundamental principle of this doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ; and it has well and solidly been of late asserted among ourselves on the same foundation. And as many of these authors do expressly blame some of the schoolmen, as Aquinas, Durandus, Biel, Tataretus, for granting a possibility of pardon without satisfaction, as opening a way to the Socinian error in this matter; so also they fear not to affirm, that the foregoing of this principle of God’s vindictive justice indispensably requiring the punishment of sin, does not only weaken the cause of the truth, but indeed leave it indefensible. However, I suppose men ought to be wary how they censure the authors mentioned, as such who expose the cause they undertook to defend unto contempt; for greater, more able, and learned defenders, this truth has not as yet found, nor does stand in need of.

J. O.

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