« Prev Prefatory note. Next »

Prefatory note.

All the information which can be given respecting these sermons on Isa. lvi. 7, will be found in the “Life,” vol. i. p. 45, and the dedication to Cromwell which is prefixed to them. The first sermon was preached at Berwick, July 21, 1650. The date of the dedication is November 26, 1650. There is no record of Owen’s proceedings in Scotland. The decisive battle of Dunbar, September 3, 1650, placed Edinburgh in the hands of Cromwell. The castle for a time held out against him; and as the Presbyterian ministers who had retired to it refused to issue from it on the Sabbath to fill the pulpits in the town, there is every likelihood that Owen found constant employment in preaching the gospel. A celebrated correspondence took place between those ministers, as represented by Dundas, the commandant of the fortress, and Oliver Cromwell. The latter offered them liberty to preach in their respective churches. Not much to their credit, they declined to avail themselves of this permission, on the ground of “the personal persecution” of which they were afraid if they ventured to quit the castle. Cromwell replies with insinuations that they wished “worldly power,” and made “worldly mixtures to accomplish the same,” and advises them to “trust to the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God;” alleging, at the same time, that though they bad not listened to his public appeals,” the Lord hath heard us,” in the victory of Dunbar. The ministers, in their reply, and in allusion to the practices of Cromwell’s officers, “regret that men of mere civil place and employment should usurp the calling and employment of the ministry, particularly in Scotland, contrary to the government and discipline therein established, — to the maintenance whereof you are bound by the Solemn League and Covenant;” and state that they “have not so learned Christ as to hang the equity of their cause upon events.” Cromwell, in a long answer, with a postscript of four queries, betraying some temper at the smart rejoinder of the clergy, complains that they make themselves “infallible expositors of the Covenant;” and winds up a reproof to them for calling such successes as that achieved at Dunbar “bare events,” with the characteristic words, “The Lord pity you.” In one of the postscript queries he has very manifestly the advantage, when he twits the ministers with their inconsistency in “crying down Malignants, and yet ‘setting up the head of them,’ Charles Stuart.” It has been thought that the hand of Owen can be traced in the letters of Cromwell; and Hume speaks of them “as the best of Cromwell’s wretched compositions.” The improvement in the composition may be ascribed to the greater leisure which Cromwell possessed at this time, while waiting the reduction of the castle. The letters are deeply impregnated with all the strongly-marked peculiarities of Cromwell’s style of thought, — the perpetual emphasis of a resolute will, expressed in sentences “lumbering,” indeed, but, like his own sword, sharp as well as heavy. Owen, we cannot but think, would have been more successful in reply to some of the statements of the ministers, and especially to the charge which they preferred against Cromwell, of suspending the equity of his cause upon his outward success. Sea Owen’s answer to such an accusation in the prefatory note to the third sermon in this volume. — Ed.

« Prev Prefatory note. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection