« Prev To his illustrious highness Lord Oliver Cromwell. Next »

To his illustrious highness Lord Oliver Cromwell, commander-in-chief of the parliamentary forces of the Commonwealth of England, the right honourable chancellor of the very celebrated university of Oxford.

Had it not been almost a crime for me, holding my present place in this most celebrated university, under your appointment and auspices, to have inscribed any literary production with a dedication to any other name, I would not have held in such poor account the weight of business you sustain as to make an endeavour to divert your thoughts and attention, so constantly directed to the welfare of the commonwealth, to a little by-work of this kind. But since, according to the nature of my office, I am under frequent necessity to address your Highness in the name of literature and of learned men, the affability of your nature will not suffer me to remain under any anxiety but that you will condescend to examine even this humble production of ours. Perhaps the dedication of books to you (amid prevailing “wars and rumours of wars,” and the fury and commotion of parties bent with eagerness on mutual destruction) will seem unseasonable, and not unlike the celebrated abstraction of him who, amid the destruction of his country and the sack of the city to which he belonged, neglecting all concern about his personal safety, was so obstinately bent on learned trifles as to be slain by a soldier while persisting in those pursuits on account of his skill in which the commander had resolved to spare his life. But even Christian authors have their polemics; and these, alas! too much fitted to excite, increase, and promote bloody strife; — such is the blindness, nay, the madness of most men. Even this small piece of ours is polemical, I confess; but it fights by means of weapons not offensive to peace, not imbued with hostility, but appropriate to truth, — namely, by the word of God and reason. In this arena, in this fortress, within this list and limit, if all controversies on divine things took place, no longer, on account of seditions and wars, would religion herself, over all Christendom, be so evil spoken of. The cause I maintain will not be esteemed by many of such consequence that I should contend for it so earnestly. But of how much importance it is in war (for it is a war in which we are engaged, and that a sacred one, with the enemies of truth) to secure a citadel or breast-work, your Excellency knows right well; that it is so to the army of the living God, redeemed and purified by the blood of Christ, whose truth we have undertaken, according to our ability, to defend, any man on serious reflection will easily perceive. Surely we may be permitted to contend for the truth. Some there are who, under pretence of zeal for the gospel, delight to mingle of their own accord in wars, tumults, strifes, and commotion, sufficiently skilled

Ære ciere viros, Martemque accendere cantu.

We pretend, however, to no such eloquence, nor have we so learned Christ. My 485hope is, that the Lord and Judge of all will find me intently occupied in preaching Christ and him crucified, in season and out of season, and wrestling in prayer with God our gracious Father, for the salvation of the little flock of his well-beloved Son. Not as if it were in our power to keep free from controversies, for He who declared himself to have been sent, according to his own and the Father’s counsel, not to destroy but to save the lives of men (that is, spiritually and eternally), predicted, however, that from the innate malice of men perversely opposing themselves to heavenly truth, not love, not tranquillity and peace, but strife, hatred, war, and the sword, would ensue upon the promulgation of that truth. Peace, indeed, he bequeathed to his own; but it was that divine peace which dwells in the bosom of the Father, and in the inmost recesses of their own souls. In truth, while his disciples live mingled with other men, and are exposed to national disturbances, how can they but share, like a small boat attached to a ship, in the same tempest and agitation with the rest? But since we have it in command, “if it be possible, and as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men,” that contention is alone pleasing which is in defence of truth; and it is pleasing only because for the truth we are bound to contend. Therefore, we address ourselves to this work, however humble it may be, in the service of our beloved Saviour, to whom we know that a work of this kind, although feeble and imperfect, is pleasing and acceptable; in whom alone, also, we would find both an encouragement and an aim in the prosecution of our studies, not unwilling to undergo any risk or danger under the guidance of such a Leader. But seeing what is acceptable to him cannot displease your Highness, I dedicate with pleasure to your Excellency, in testimony of my gratitude, what I have accomplished in fulfilment of my duty to him. For what remains (since a reason must elsewhere be rendered to the reader for undertaking this work, and

“― in publica commoda peccem,

Si longo sermone morer tua tempora”),

I bow before God, the best and greatest, beseeching him in Jesus Christ that he would continually direct, by his own Spirit, all the counsels, undertakings, and actions of your Highness; that he would turn all these to his own glory, and to the peace, honour, and advantage of the church, commonwealth, and university; and that he would preserve your spirit, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever. This I write under ill health at Oxford, the last day of the year 1652.

The devoted Servant of your Illustrious Highness, and your Vice-Chancellor in this famous University,

John Owen

« Prev To his illustrious highness Lord Oliver Cromwell. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection