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To his highness Oliver, Lord-Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland, with the dominions thereof.


The wise man tells us that “no man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before him.” The great variety wherein God dispenseth outward things in the world, with the many changes and alterations which, according to the counsel of his will, he continually works in the dispensations of them, will not allow them nakedly in themselves to be evidences of the Fountain from whence they flow. Seeing, also, that the want or abundance of them may equally, by the goodness and wisdom of God, be ordered and cast into a useful subserviency to a good infinitely transcending what is or may be contained in them, there is no necessity that in the distribution of them God should walk according to any constant uniform law of procedure, all the various alterations about them answering one eternal purpose for a determinate end. Of spiritual good things there is another reason and condition; for as they are in themselves fruits, evidences, and pledges, of an eternal, unchangeable love, so the want of them in their whole kind being not capable of a tendency to a greater good than they are, the dispensation of them doth so far answer the eternal Spring and Fountain from whence it floweth as, in respect of its substance and being, not to be obnoxious to any alteration. This is that which in the ensuing treatise is contended for. In the midst of all the changes and mutations which the infinitely wise providence of God doth daily effect in the greater and lesser things of this world, as to the communication of his love in Jesus Christ, and the merciful, gracious distributions of the unsearchable riches of grace, and the hid treasures thereof purchased by his blood, he knows no repentance. Of both these you have had full experience; and though your concernment in the former hath been as eminent as that of any person whatever in these later ages of the world, yet your interest in and acquaintance with the latter is, as of incomparable more importance in itself, so answerably of more value and esteem unto you. A sense of the excellency and sweetness of unchangeable love, emptying itself in the golden oil of distinguishing spiritual mercies, is one letter of that new name which none can read but he that hath it. The series and chain of eminent providences whereby you have been carried on and protected in all the hazardous work of your generation, which your God hath called you unto, is evident to all. Of your preservation by the power of God, through faith, in a course of gospel obedience, upon the account of the immutability of the love and infallibility of the promises of God, which are yea and amen in Jesus Christ, your own soul only is possessed with the experience. Therein is that abiding joy, that secret refreshment, which the world cannot give. That you and all the saints of God may yet enjoy that peace and consolation which is in believing that the eternal love of God is immutable, that he is faithful in his promises, that his covenant, 6ratified in the death of his Son, is unchangeable, that the fruits of the purchase of Christ shall be certainly bestowed on all them for whom he died, and that every one who is really interested in these things shall be kept unto salvation, is the aim of my present plea and contest. That I have taken upon me to present my weak endeavours in this cause of God to your Highness is so far forth from my persuasion of your interest in the truth contended for (and than which you have none more excellent or worthy), that without it no other considerations whatever, either of that dignity and power whereunto of God you are called, or of your peculiar regard to that society of men whereof I am an unworthy member, or any other personal respects whatever, could have prevailed with or emboldened me thereunto. “Sancta sanctis.” The things I treat of are such as sometimes “none of the princes of this world knew,” and as yet few of them are acquainted with. Blessed are they who have their portion in them! When the urgency of your high and important affairs, wherein so many nations are concerned, will lend you so much leisure as to take a view of what is here tendered, the knowledge which you have of me will deliver you from a temptation of charging any weakness you may meet withal upon the doctrine which I assert and maintain; and so that may “run and be glorified,” whatever become of the nothing that I have done in the defence thereof, I shall be abundantly satisfied. That is the shield, which being safe, I can with contentment see these papers die. Unto your Highness I have not any thing more to add, nor for you greater thing to pray, than that you may be established in the assurance and sense of that unchangeable love and free acceptance in Christ which I contend for, and that therein you may be preserved, to the glory of God, the advancement of the gospel, and the real advantage of these nations.

Your Highness’s most humble and most faithful servant,

John Owen.

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