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The preface to the reader.

As perhaps, learned reader, you will think it strange that I, who have such abundance of various and laborious employment of another kind, should think of publishing such a work as this, it may not be improper to lay before you a summary account of the reasons that induced me to this undertaking; and I do it the rather that this little production may escape free from the injurious suspicions which the manners of the times are but too apt to affix to works of this kind. It is now four months and upwards since, in the usual course of duty, in defending certain theological theses in our university, it fell to my lot to discourse and dispute on the vindicatory justice of God, and the necessity of its exercise, on the supposition of the existence of sin. Although these observations were directed, to the best of my abilities, immediately against the Socinians, yet it was understood that many very respectable theologians entertained sentiments on this subject very different from mine; and although the warmest opposers of what we then maintained were obliged to acknowledge that our arguments are quite decisive against the adversaries, yet there were not wanting some, who, not altogether agreeing with us, employed themselves in strictures upon our opinion, and accused it of error, while others continued wavering, and, in the diversity of opinions, knew not on which to fix. Much controversy ensuing in consequence of this, I agreed with some learned men to enter, both in writings and conversation, upon an orderly and deliberate investigation of the subject. And after the scruples of several had been removed by a more full consideration of our opinion (to effect which the following considerations chiefly contributed, namely, that they clearly saw this doctrine conduced to the establishment of the necessity of the satisfaction of Jesus Christ, a precious truth, which these worthy and good men, partakers of the grace and gift of righteousness through means of the blood of Christ, not only warmly favoured, but dearly venerated, as the most honourable11    Ὑπερτίμιον, invaluable, unspeakably precious. — Ed. treasure of the church, the seed of a blessed immortality, and the darling jewel of our religion), I was greatly encouraged in the conferences with these gentlemen to take a deeper view of the subject, and to examine it more closely, for the future benefit of mankind.

Besides; several of those who had before examined and were acquainted with our sentiments, or to whom, in consequence of our short discourse in the university on the subject, they began to be more acceptable, — and these, too, considerable both for their number and rank, — ceased not to urge me to a more close consideration and accurate review of the controversy; for in that public dissertation, it being confined, according to the general custom of such exercises in universities, within the narrow limits of an hour, I could only slightly touch on the nature of vindicatory justice, whereas the rules and limits of such exercises would not permit me to enter on the chief point, the great hinge of the controversy, — namely, concerning the necessary exercise of that justice. This is the difficulty that requires the abilities of the most judicious and acute to investigate and solve. In this situation of matters, not only a more full view of the whole state of the controversy, but likewise of the weight of those arguments on which the truth of that side of the question which we have espoused depends, as also an explanation and confutation of certain subtilties whereby the opponents had embarrassed the minds of some inquirers after truth, became objects of general request. And, indeed, such 487were the circumstances of this controversy, that any one might easily perceive that a scholastic dissertation on the subject must take a very different turn, and could bear no farther resemblance, and owe nothing more to the former exercise, than the having furnished an opportunity or occasion for its appearance in public.

Although, then, I was more than sufficiently full of employment already, yet, being excited by the encouragement of good men, and fully persuaded in my own mind that the truth which we embrace is so far from being of trivial consequence in our religion, that it is intimately connected with many, the most important articles of the Christian doctrine, concerning the attributes of God, the satisfaction of Christ, and the nature of sin, and of our obedience, and that it strikes its roots deep through almost the whole of theology, or the acknowledging of the truth which is according to godliness; — fully persuaded, I say, of these facts, I prevailed with myself, rather than this doctrine should remain any longer neglected or buried, and hardly even known by name, or be held captive by the reasonings of some enslaving the minds of mankind, “through philosophy and vain deceit,” to exert my best abilities in its declaration and defence.

Several things, however, which, with your good leave, reader, I shall now mention, almost deterred me from the task when begun. The first and chief was, the great difficulty of the subject itself, which, among the more abstruse points of truth, is by no means the least abstruse: for as every divine truth has a peculiar majesty and reverence belonging to it, which debars from the spiritual knowledge of it (as it is in Christ) the ignorant and unstable, — that is, those who are not taught of God, or become subject to the truth, — so those points which dwell in more intimate recesses, and approach nearer its immense fountain, the “Father of lights,” darting brighter rays, by their excess of light present a confounding darkness to the minds of the greatest men (and are as darkness to the eyes, breaking forth amidst so great light):—

Suntque oculis tenebræ per tantum lumen obortæ.

For what we call darkness in divine subjects is nothing else than their celestial glory and splendour striking on the weak ball of our eyes, the rays of which we are not able in this life, which “is but a vapour” (and that not very clear), “which appeareth but for a little,” to bear. Hence God himself, who is “light, and in whom there is no darkness at all,” who “dwelleth in light inaccessible,” and who “clotheth himself with light as with a garment,” in respect of us, is said to have made “darkness his pavilion.”

Not, as the Roman Catholics say, that there is any reason that we should blasphemously accuse the holy Scriptures of obscurity; for “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Nor is there reason to complain that any one part of the truth hath been too sparingly or obscurely revealed: for even the smallest portion of the divine word is, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, assisting to dispose and frame either the subject or our hearts, so as to view the bright object of divine truth in its proper and spiritual light, sufficient to communicate the knowledge of truths of the last importance; for it is owing to the nature of the doctrines themselves and their exceeding splendour that there are some things hard to be conceived and interpreted, and which surpass our capacity and comprehension. Whether this article of divine truth which we are now inquiring into be not akin to those which we have now mentioned, let the learned judge and determine, especially those who shall reflect what a close connection there is between it and the whole doctrine concerning the nature of God, the satisfaction of Christ, the desert of sin, and every one of the dark and more abstruse heads of our religion. I have, therefore, determined to place my chief dependence on His aid “who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” For those unhappy gentlemen only lose their labour, and may not improperly be compared to the artists 488who used more than common exertions in building Noah’s ark,22    Thereby hastening their own destruction. — Tr. and who, like bees, work for others and not for themselves in the search of truth, who, relying on their own abilities and industry, use every effort to ascertain and comprehend divine truths, while, at the same time, they continue utterly regardless whether “He who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath hitherto shone in their hearts, to give them the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ;” for, after all, they can accomplish nothing more, by their utmost efforts, but to discover their technical or artificial ignorance.33    The meaning is, “But to make a most elaborate display of their ignorance.” — Ed.

Setting aside, then, the consideration of some phrases, and even of some arguments, as to what relates to the principal point of the controversy, I hold myself bound, in conscience and in honour, not even to imagine that I have attained a proper knowledge of any one article of truth, much less to publish it, unless through the Holy Spirit I have had such a taste of it in its spiritual sense, as that I may be able from the heart to say with the psalmist, “I have believed, and therefore have I spoken.” He who, in the investigation of truth, makes it his chief care to have his mind and will rendered subject to the faith, and obedient to the “Father of lights,” and who with attention waits upon Him whose throne is in the heavens; he alone (since the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God) attains to true wisdom, — the others walk in a “vain show.” It has, then, been my principal object, in tracing the depths and secret nature of the subject in question, — while I, a poor worm, contemplated the majesty and glory of Him concerning whose perfections I was treating, — to attend and obey, with all humility and reverence, what the great God the Lord hath spoken in his word; not at all doubting but that, whatever way he should incline my heart, by the power of his Spirit and truth, I should be enabled, in a dependence on his aid, to bear the contradictions of a false knowledge, and all human and philosophical arguments.

And, to say the truth, as I have adopted the opinion which I defend in this dissertation from no regard to the arguments of either one or another learned man, and much less from any slavish attachment to authority, example, or traditionary prejudices, and from no confidence in the opinion or abilities of others, but, as I hope, from a most humble contemplation of the holiness, purity, justice, right, dominion, wisdom, and mercy of God; so by the guidance of his Spirit alone, and power of his heart-changing grace, filling my mind with all the fullness of truth, and striking me with a deep awe and admiration of it, I have been enabled to surmount the difficulty of the research. Theology is the “wisdom that is from above,” a habit of grace and spiritual gifts, the manifestation of the Spirit, reporting what is conducive to happiness. It is not a science to be learned from the precepts of man, or from the rules of arts, or method of other sciences, as those represent it who also maintain that a “natural man” may attain all that artificial and methodical theology, even though, in the matters of God and mysteries of the gospel, he be blinder than a mole. What a distinguished theologian must he be “who receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God!”

But again, having sailed through this sea of troubles44    Vado isto enavigato, “Having cleared these shallows.” — Ed. and being ready to launch out upon the subject, that gigantic spectre, “It is everywhere spoken against,” should have occasioned me no delay, had it not come forth inscribed with the mighty names of Augustine, Calvin, Musculus, Twisse, and Vossius. And although I could not but entertain for these divines that honour and respect which is due to such great names, yet, partly by considering myself as entitled to that “freedom wherewith Christ hath made us free,” and partly by opposing to these the names of other very learned theologians, — namely, Paræus, Piscator, Molinæus, Lubbertus, Rivetus, Cameron, Maccovius, Junius, the professors at Saumur, and others, — who, after the spreading of the poison of Socinianism, have with great accuracy 489and caution investigated and cleared up this truth, I easily got rid of any uneasiness from that quarter.

Having thus surmounted these difficulties, and begun the undertaking by devoting to it a few leisure hours stolen from other engagements, the work prospered beyond all expectation; and, by the favour of the “Father of lights,” who “worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” in a few days it was brought to a conclusion.

And now that the labour of composing was ended, I again entertained doubts, and continued for some time in suspense, whether, considering the manners of the times in which we live, it would not be more prudent to throw the papers, with some other kindred compositions on other subjects of divinity, into some secret coffers, there to be buried in eternal oblivion, than bring them forth to public discussion.

For even all know with what vain arrogance, malice, party spirit, and eager lust of attacking the labours of others, the minds of many are corrupted and infected. Not only, then, was it necessary that I should anticipate and digest in my mind the contempt and scoffings which these bantering, saucy, dull-witted, self-sufficient despisers of others, or any of such a contemptible race, whose greatest pleasure it is to disparage all kinds of exertions, however praiseworthy, might pour out against me; but I likewise foresaw that I should have to contend with the soured tempers and prejudiced opinions of others, who, being carried away by party zeal, and roused by the unexpected state and condition of public affairs,55    This treatise was written in the time of the Commonwealth. — Tr. and who thinking themselves to be the men, and that wisdom was born and will die with them, look down with contempt upon all who differ from them; and not with these only, but I likewise knew that I had a more severe scrutiny to undergo from some learned men, to whom, it was easy to conjecture, this work, for many reasons, would not be acceptable, — for there are some by whom all labour employed in the search of any more obscure or difficult truth is accounted as misemployed, nor do these want the ingenuity of assigning honourable pretences for their indolence. I should, however, be ashamed to enter into any serious argument with such, nor is it worth while to enter upon a review of their long declamations. And although these, and many other things of such a kind, may appear grievous and hard to be borne to your dainty gentlemen, who eagerly court splendour and fame, yet, ingenuously to say the truth, I am very fully persuaded that no man can either think or speak of me and my works with so much disregard and contempt as I myself, from my soul, both think and speak. And having in no respect any other expectation than that of contempt to myself and name, provided divine truth he promoted, all these considerations had long ago become not only of small consequence to me, but appeared as the merest trifles; for why should we be anxious about what shall become either of ourselves or our names, if only we “commit our souls to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator,” and by continuing in well-doing, stop the mouths of ignorant babblers? “God careth for us;” let us “cast our burdens upon him, and he will sustain us.” Let but the truth triumph, vanquish, rout, and put to flight its enemies; let the word of the cross have “free course and be glorified;” let wretched sinners learn daily more and more of fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, of the necessity of satisfaction for sins by the blood of the Son of God, so that he who is “white and ruddy, and the chiefest among ten thousand,” may appear so to them, “yea, altogether lovely,” till, being admitted into the chambers of the church’s husband, they drink “love that is better than wine,” and “become a willing people in the day of his power, and in the beauty of holiness;” and I shall very little regard being “judged of man’s judgment.”

Since, then, I not only have believed what I have spoken, but as both my own heart and God, who is greater than my heart, are witnesses that I have engaged in this labour for the truth under the influence of the most sacred regard and 490reverence for the majesty, purity, holiness, justice, grace, and mercy of God, from a detestation of that abominable thing which his soul hateth, and with a heart inflamed with zeal for the honour and glory of our dearest Saviour Jesus Christ, who is fairer than the sons of men and altogether lovely, whom with my soul and all that is within me I worship, love, and adore, whose glorious coming I wish and long for (“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly”), for “whose sake I count all things but as loss and dung;” — since, I say, I have engaged in this labour from these motives alone, I am under no anxiety or doubt but it will meet with a favourable reception from impartial judges, from those acquainted with the terror of the Lord, the curse of the law, the virtue of the cross, the power of the gospel, and the riches of the glory of divine grace.

There are, no doubt, many other portions and subjects of our religion, of that blessed trust committed to us for our instruction, on which we might dwell with greater pleasure and satisfaction of mind. Such, I mean, as afford a more free and wider scope of ranging through the most pleasant meads of the holy Scripture and contemplating in these the transparent fountains of life and rivers of consolation; subjects which, unencumbered by the thickets of scholastic terms and distinctions, unembarrassed by the impediments and sophisms of an enslaving philosophy or false knowledge, sweetly and pleasantly lead into a pure, unmixed, and delightful fellowship with the Father and with his Son, shedding abroad in the heart the inmost loves of our Beloved, with the odour of his sweet ointment poured forth. This truth, [however, which is under our consideration], likewise has its uses, and such as are of the greatest importance to those who are walking in the way of holiness and evangelical obedience. A brief specimen and abstract66    [A few crumbs of these, by way of specimen are] added, etc. “Abstract” conveys a widely different idea from ἀποσπασμὰτα, — Ed. of them is added, for the benefit of the pious reader, in the end of the dissertation, in order to excite his love towards our beloved High Priest and Chief Shepherd, and true fear towards God, who is a “consuming fire,” and whom we cannot serve “acceptably” unless with “reverence and godly fear.”

There can be no doubt but that many points of doctrine still remain, on which the labours of the godly and learned may be usefully employed: for although many reverend and learned divines, both of the present and former age, [from the time, at least, when God vouchsafed to our fathers that glorious regeneration, or time of reformation, of a purer religion and of sound learning, after a long reign of darkness,] have composed from the sacred writings a synopsis, or methodical body, of doctrine or heavenly truth, and published their compositions under various titles; and although other theological writings, catechetical, dogmatical, exegetical, casuistical, and polemical, have increased to such a mass that the “world can hardly contain the books that have been written;” yet such is the nature of divine truth, so deep and inexhaustible the fountain of the sacred Scriptures, whence we draw it, so innumerable the salutary remedies and antidotes proposed in these to dispel all the poisons and temptations wherewith the adversary can ever attack either the minds of the pious or the peace of the church and the true doctrine, that serious and thinking men can entertain no doubt but that we perform a service praise-worthy and profitable to the church of Christ, when, under the direction of “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, we bring forward, explain, and defend the most important and necessary articles of evangelical truth.

But to be more particular: how sparingly, for instance, yea, how obscurely, how confusedly, is the whole economy of the Spirit towards believers (one of the greatest mysteries of our religion, — a most invaluable portion of the salvation brought about for us by Christ) described by divines in general! or rather, by the most, is it not altogether neglected? In their catechisms, common-place books, public and private theses, systems, compends, etc., even in their commentaries, harmonies, and 491expositions, concerning the indwelling, sealing testimony, unction, and consolation of the Spirit, — Good God! concerning this inestimable fruit of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this invaluable treasure of the godly, though copiously revealed and explained in the Scriptures, there is almost a total silence; and with regard to union and communion with Christ, and with his Father and our Father, and some other doctrines respecting his person, as the husband and head of the church, the same observation holds good.

For almost from the very period in which they were capable of judging even of the first principles of religion,77    “Ab ipsis ferè religionis nostræ cunis et primordiis.” Surely the rendering above is a wide deviation from Owen’s meaning, — “From the infancy and origin of our religion,” that is, the Christian religion. — Ed. the orthodox have applied themselves to clear up and explain those articles of the truth which Satan, by his various artifices, hath endeavoured to darken, pervert, or undermine. But as there is no part of divine truth which, since the eternal and sworn enmity took place between him and the seed of the woman, he hath not opposed with all his might, fury, and cunning; so he hath not thought proper wholly to entrust the success of his interest to instruments delegated from among mankind, — though many of them seem to have discovered such a wonderful promptitude, alacrity, and zeal in transacting his business, that one would think they had been formed and fashioned for the purpose, — but he hath reserved, according to that power which he hath over darkness and all kind of wickedness, a certain portion of his work, to be administered in a peculiar manner by himself. And as he has, in all ages, reaped an abundant crop of tares from that part of his [domain] which he hired out to be improved by man, though, from the nature of human affairs, not without much noise, tumult, blood, and slaughter; so from that which he thought proper to manage himself, without any delegated assistance, he has received a more abundant and richer crop of infernal fruit.

The exertions of Satan against the truth of the gospel may be distinguished into two divisions. In the first, as the god of this world, he endeavours to darken the minds of unbelievers, “that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may not shine unto them.” With what success he exercises this soul-destroying employment we cannot pretend to say; but there is reason to lament that he hath succeeded, and still succeeds, beyond his utmost hope. In the other, he carries on an implacable war, an unremitting strife; not, as formerly, with Michael about the body of Moses, but about the Spirit of Christ, about some of the more distinguished articles of the truth, and the application of each of them in order to cultivate communion with God the Father, and with his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, — against the hearts of the godly and the new creature formed within them.

In this situation of affairs, most Christian writers have made it their study to oppose that first effort of the devil, whereby, through means of his instruments, he openly endeavours to suppress the light, both natural and revealed; but they have not been equally solicitous to succour the minds of believers when wrestling, “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” and almost ready to sink under the contest. Hence, I say, a very minute investigation hath been set on foot by many of those articles of religion which he has openly, through the instrumentality of the slaves of error and darkness, attacked, and the vindication of them made clear and plain. But those which, both from their relation to practice and a holy communion, full of spiritual joy, to be cultivated with God, the old serpent hath reserved for his own attack in the hearts of believers, most writers, (partly either because they were ignorant of his wiles, or because they saw not much evil publicly arising thence, and partly because the arguments of the adversary were not founded on any general principle, but only to be deduced from the private and particular state and case of individuals,) have either passed over or very slightly touched upon.

492As to what pertains to theology itself, or that “knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,” wherewith being filled “we ourselves become perfect, and throughly furnished to every good work,” and “able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit,” — “apt to teach, rightly dividing the word of truth;” that subject, I say, though a common and chief topic in the writings both of the schoolmen and others on religion, many have acknowledged, to their fatal experience, when too late, is treated in too perplexed and intricate a manner to be of any real and general service.

For while they are warmly employed in disputing whether theology be an art or a science, and whether it be a speculative or practical art or science; and while they attempt to measure it exactly by those rules, laws, and methods which human reason has devised for other sciences, thus endeavouring to render it more plain and clear, — they find themselves, to the grief and sorrow of many candidates for the truth, entangled in inextricable difficulties, and left in possession only of a human system of doctrines, having little or no connection at all with true theology.88    The full sentence in the original runs in the following terms:— “Not a few wooers of truth having followed their guidance, grieve and lament how they have strayed in their whole course, after finding themselves pushed into inextricable difficulties, (like that old man in Terence who was directed by a villain of a slave backward and forward, by steeps, and precipices, and obscure corners, to land at length in a narrow alley with no thoroughfare,) and left in possession only of a human system of doctrine, having scarcely any thing in common with true theology.” — Ed. I hope, therefore, — “if the Lord will, and I live,” — to publish (but from no desire of gainsaying any one) some specimens of evangelical truth on the points before mentioned, as well as on other subjects.99    See Owen on the Holy Spirit. [This note is by the translator. We apprehend that Owen alludes his work on “Communion with God.” See vol. ii. of his works. — Ed.]

As to the work that I have now in hand, the first part of the dissertation is concerning the cause of the death of Christ; and in the execution of which I have the greatest pleasure and satisfaction (though proudly defied by the adversaries, so conceited with themselves and their productions are they), because “I have determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified,” — at least, nothing that could divert my attention from that subject.1010    This paragraph is neither correctly rendered nor consistent with fact. The whole paragraph stands thus in the original:— “As to the work now in hand it is the first part of a dissertation concerning the causes of the death of Christ; to which I willingly apply because I have determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified: though sadly provoked to turn my thoughts in another direction by the insolent haughtiness of adversaries, who cannot think highly enough of themselves and their productions; — a sort of persons than whom none are more silly, or held more cheap by wise and thoughtful men.” Owen does not seem to have ever fulfilled his intention to complete this work on the causes of our Lord’s agony. The subject is fully considered in the Exercitations xxix. and xxx., prefixed to his Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. — Ed.

But now, learned reader, lest, as the saving is, “the gate should become wider than the city,” if you will bear with me while I say a few things of myself, however little worthy of your notice, I shall immediately conclude the preface.

About two years ago, the parliament of the commonwealth promoted me, while diligently employed, according to the measure of the gift of grace bestowed on me, in preaching the gospel, by their authority and influence, though with reluctance on my part, to a chair in the very celebrated university of Oxford. I mean not to relate what various employments fell to my lot from that period; what frequent journeys I became engaged in; not, indeed, expeditions of pleasure, or on my own or private account, but such as the unavoidable necessities of the university, and the commands of superiors, whose authority was not be gainsaid, imposed upon me. And now I clearly found that I, who dreaded almost every academical employment, as being unequal to the task (for what could be expected from a man not far advanced in years, who had for several years been very full of employment, and accustomed only to the popular mode of speaking; who, being altogether devoted to the investigation and explanation of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ, had for some time taken leave of all scholastic studies; whose genius is by no means quick, and who had even forgot, in some measure, the portion of polite learning that he might have formerly acquired, and at a time, too, when I had 493entertained hope that, through the goodness of God, in giving me leisure, and retirement, and strength for study, the deficiency of genius and penetration might be made up by industry and diligence), was now so circumstanced that the career of my studies must be interrupted by more and greater impediments than ever before.

For, to mention first what certainly is most weighty and important, the task of lecturing in public was put upon me; which would, strictly and properly, require the whole time and attention even of the most grave and experienced divine; and in the discharge of which, unless I had been greatly assisted and encouraged by the candour, piety, submission, and self-denial of the auditors, and by their respect for the divine institution and their love of the truth, with every kind of indulgence and kind attention towards the earthen vessel, which distinguish most academicians, of every rank, age, and description, beyond mankind in general, I should have long ago lost all hope of discharging that province, either to the public advantage or my own private satisfaction and comfort.

And as most of them are endowed with a pious disposition and Christian temper, and well furnished with superior gifts, and instructed in learning of every kind, — which, in the present imperfect and depraved state of human nature, is apt to fill the minds of men with prejudices against “the foolishness of preaching,” and to disapprove “the simplicity that is in Christ,” — I should be the most ungrateful of mankind were I not to acknowledge that the humility, diligence, and alacrity with which they attended to and obeyed the words of the cross, indulging neither pride of heart, nor animosity of mind, nor itching of ears, though dispensed by a most unworthy servant of God in the gospel of his Son, have given, and still give me great courage in the discharge of the different duties of my office.

The most merciful Father of all things shall, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, dispose of the affairs of our university. Reports, however, are everywhere spread abroad concerning the abolition and destruction of the colleges, and efforts for that purpose made by some who, being entire strangers to every kind of literature, or at least ignorant of every thing of greater antiquity than what their own memory or that of their fathers can reach, and regardless of the future, imagine the whole globe and bounds of human knowledge to be contained within the limits of their own little cabins, ignorant whether the sun ever shone beyond their own little island or not, — “neither knowing what they say nor whereof they affirm;” and by others who are deeply sunk in the basest of crimes, and who would, therefore, wish all light distinguishing between good and evil entirely extinguished (for “evil doers hate the light, nor do they come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved”), that they (mean lurchers hitherto) may “fill up the measure of their iniquity” with some kind of eclat. With this faction are combined those who, never having become candidates for literature themselves, yet, by pushing themselves forward, have unseasonably thrust themselves into such services and offices as necessarily require knowledge and learning. These, I say, like the fox which had lost his tail, would wish all the world deprived of the means of knowledge, lest their own shameful ignorance, despicable indolence, and total unfitness for the offices which they solicit or hold, should appear to all who have the least degree of understanding and sense. And lastly, too, [the same reports are spread] by a despicable herd of prodigal, idle fellows, eagerly gaping for the revenues of the university. I could not, therefore, but give such a public testimony, as a regard to truth and duty required from me, to these very respectable and learned men (however much these treacherous calumniators and falsifying sycophants may rail and show their teeth upon the occasion), the heads of the colleges, who have merited so highly of the church [and of the commonwealth], for their distinguished candour, great diligence, uncommon erudition, blameless politeness;1111    “Inculpatæ πολιτείας,” — rather, “Blameless administration.” — Ed. many of whom are zealously studious of every kind of literature; and many, by 494their conduct in the early period of their youth, gave the most promising hopes of future merit: so that I would venture to affirm, that no impartial and unprejudiced judge will believe that our university hath either been, for ages past, surpassed, or is now surpassed, either in point of a proper respect and esteem for piety, for the saving knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, manners orderly and worthy of the Christian vocation, or for a due regard to doctrines, arts, languages, and all sciences that can be ornamental to wise, worthy, and good men, appointed for the public good, by any society of men in the world.

Relying, then, on the humanity, piety, and candour of such men (who may be “afflicted, but not straitened; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;” who carry about with them the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ), though destitute of all strength of my own, and devoting myself entirely to Him “who furnisheth seed to the sower,” and who “from the mouths of babes and sucklings ordaineth strength,” who hath appointed Christ a perpetual source of help, and who furnishes a seasonable aid to every pious effort, — I have, in conjunction with my very learned colleague1212    Mr T. Goodwin, president of Magdalen College. (a very eminent man, and whose equal in the work of the gospel if the parliament of the commonwealth had conjoined with him, they would have attended to the best interests of the university), continued in the discharge of the duties of this laborious and difficult province.

But not on this account alone would I have been reluctant to return, after so long an interval of time, to this darling university; but another care, another office, and that by far the most weighty, was, by the concurring voice of the senate of the university, and notwithstanding my most earnest requests to the contrary, entrusted and assigned to me, and by the undertaking of which I have knowingly and wittingly compounded with the loss of my peace and all my studious pursuits.1313    In the year 1651 Dr Owen was settled in the deanery of Christ Church, and in 1652 chosen vice-chancellor of that university.

Such, candid reader, is the account of the author of the following little treatise, and of his situation when composing it; a man not wise in the estimation of others, — in his own, very foolish; first called from rural retirement and the noise of arms to this university, and very lately again returned to it from excursions in the cause of the gospel, not only to the extremities of this island, but to coasts beyond the seas, and now again deeply engaged in the various and weighty duties of his station. Whether any thing exalted or refined can be expected from such a person is easy for any one to determine.

With regard to our manner of writing, or Latin diction, as some are wont to acquire great praise from their sublimity of expression, allow me but a word or two. Know, then, reader, that you have to do with a person who, provided his words but clearly express the sentiments of his mind, entertains a fixed and absolute disregard for all elegance and ornaments of speech; for, —

Dicite, pontifices, in sacris quid facit aurum?

“Say, bishops, of what avail is glitter to sacred subjects?”

In my opinion, indeed, he who, in a theological contest, should please himself with the idea of displaying rhetorical flourishes, would derive no other advantage therefrom but that his head, adorned with magnificent verbose garlands and pellets, would fall a richer victim to the criticisms of the learned.

But whatever shall be the decision of the serious and judicious with respect to this treatise, if I shall any how stir up an emulation in others, on whom the grace of God may have bestowed more excellent gifts, to bring forward to public utility their pious, solid, and learned labours, and shall excite them, from their light, to confer light on the splendour of this university, I shall be abundantly gratified. Farewell, pious reader, and think not lightly of him who hath used his most zealous endeavours to serve thy interest in the cause of the gospel.

John Owen.

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