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Prefatory note.

The complete title of the earlier editions of the following sermon indicates the design of the author, — “Concerning the Kingdom of Christ, and the Power of the Civil Magistrate about the things of the Worship of God.” It was preached to the Parliament on October 13, 1652, “a day of solemn humiliation.” It was the time of the naval war with the Dutch. The bill for a New Representative, or, in other words, the question whether the Long Parliament should now be dissolved, was keenly agitated. The weightier question, as to the settlement of the Constitution, burdened and perplexed the nation. During the month in which the sermon was preached, numerous private conferences on the former point took place between the leaders of the Parliament and the officers of the Army. These circumstances may account for the appointment of a day of humiliation. What determined Owen to make choice of the delicate and important subject of which he treats in this sermon, might be the prevalence of a desire in many quarters for a proper adjustment of ecclesiastical affairs. A petition from the Army (see “Whitelocke’s Memorials,” p. 516) had been presented to the Parliament on the 13th of August 1652, “reciting that they had often sought the Lord, and desire these particulars to be considered.” Then follows a list of twelve “particulars;” the first of which is, “That speedy and effectual means be used for promoting the gospel, profane and scandalous ministers be ousted, good preachers encouraged, maintenance for them provided, and tithes taken away.”

The sermon breathes a spirit weary of the lengthened confusion which had distracted the land. The principles contained in it raise questions as important in themselves, and as fresh in interest now, as in the days when Owen lived and preached. Whatever may be thought of his views on the relation of the magistrate to the church, this sermon, in which his judgment is declared on this topic of paramount and engrossing moment, has evidently been prepared with unusual care. — Ed.

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