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Prefatory note.

The ancient town of Colchester, which had at an early period in the civil wars declared in favour of the Parliament, was besieged and obliged to surrender to the Royal forces. Lord Fairfax, the general of the Parliamentary army, and a nobleman of high reputation, whom both Milton and Hume unite in praising, after an ineffectual attempt to regain the town by storm, changed his tactics into a rigorous blockade. The Royalists maintained the defence with signal gallantry for nearly eleven weeks, till all their provisions were spent, and they had nothing on which to subsist but horses, dogs, and other animals. At length they surrendered at discretion, when two of their officers, Sir Charles Lucas and Sir George Lisle, suffered military execution on the spot. A fine of £14,000 was imposed on the town.

Owen, at this time pastor of an Independent congregation at Coggeshall, which is not far from Colchester, and which was the head-quarters of Fairfax during the siege, seems to have officiated as chaplain to the Parliamentary general; and on the fall of the town, a day of thanksgiving was observed, when he preached before Fairfax and his victorious army, from Hab. iii. 1–9. A committee of Parliament bad been sitting at Colchester when the Royalists seized it, and had been under imprisonment during the siege. They also engaged in the same exercise of thanksgiving for their deliverance at Rumford, on September 28, 1648. Owen preached to them another discourse from the same text. Both discourses were published as one. They take the shape of a running comment upon a very sublime passage of Scripture. The verses are expounded in order, and the author educes from them a series of general principles or observations, which he illustrates with tact and power. Exegetic statements are made the basis of important principles, and relieved by eloquent expressions, and maxims of practical wisdom. Though necessarily brief, some of the appeals interwoven with the details of exposition are specimens of close and urgent dealing with the conscience.

Objection has been taken by Mr Orme to the warlike tone of the preacher in some parts of the discourse. There is certainly but slight reference to the evils and horrors of war. Regret might have been expressed that no course was open to the nation in the pending quarrel with its king, but the stern arbitration of the sword. Still, the objection is hardly just. The audience of Owen consisted of men who, at the call of duty, had been hazarding their lives for the best interests of the nation, and except on the principle that all war is unlawful, the preacher could not be expected to utter sentiments which might have sounded in their ears as a condemnation of their conduct. Moreover, while he could not but allude to military operations, he abstains from all fulsome eulogy of the skill and valour of the conquerors, and ascribes the praise of the victory and deliverance to God; so much so, that he has been charged with committing himself in this discourse to the erroneous principle of inferring the goodness of a cause from the success that may have attended it. Mr Orme conclusively repels the insinuation, by quoting Owen’s own explicit disclaimer of the sentiment thus imputed to him:— “A cause is good or bad before it hath success, one way or other; and that which hath not its warrant in itself, can never obtain any from its success. The rule of the goodness of any cause is the eternal law of reason, with the legal rights and interests of men.” See Owen’s “Reflections on a Slanderous Libel,” vol. xvi. — Ed.

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