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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; and 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 shall not be lost;' 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 colleague, 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 comc Mr. T. Goodwin, President of Magdalen College.
pounded with the loss of my peace, and all my studious "pursuits.
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
In the year 1651, Dr. Owen was settled in the deanery of Christ's College; and in 1652 chosen vice-chancellor of that university.
grace of God may have bestowed more excellent gifts, to bring forward to public utility their pure, 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.
The introduction. The design of the work. Atheists. The prolepsisa of divine justice general. The divisions of justice, according to Aristotle. The sentiments of the schoolmen respecting these. Another division. Justice considered absolutely. Then in various respects.
In this treatise, we are to discourse of God and of his justice, the most illustrious of all the divine perfections; but especially of hish vindicatory justice; of the certainty of which, I most firmly believe that all mankind will, one time or other, be made fully sensible, either by faith in it here, as revealed in the word; or by feeling its effects, to their extreme misery, in the world hereafter. But as the human mind is blind to divine light, and as both our understandings and tongues are inadequate to conceive of God aright, and to declare him (hence, that common and just observation, that it is an arduous thing to speak of God aright), that we may handle so important a subject with that reverence and perspicuity wherewith it becomes it to be treated, we must chiefly depend on his aid, 'who was made the righteousness of God for us, God himself blessed for ever.' But whatever I have written, and whatever I have asserted, on this subject, whether I have written and assert⚫ed it with modesty, sobriety, judgment, and humility, must be left to the decision of such as are competent judges.
This word commonly means a previous and concise view of a subject, or, an anticipation of objections. In this treatise it means, a natural or innate conception of divine justice.
b The word in the original means either to claim and assert a right, or to punish the violation of it: by vindicatory justice then, we are to understand that perfection of the Deity, which disposes him to vindicate his right by punishing its violators. It ought never to be translated vindictive, or understood as meaning revengeful.
c Or justice.
* But Dr. Owen thus designates this work; My book of the Vindictive Justice of God;' Works, vol. ix. p. 188. For the sense in which he uses the term 'vindictive,' see vol. vi. pp. 392, 393. vol. ix. 46, 47. vol. x. pp. 102, 103. Editor.
We think proper to divide this dissertation into two parts. In the first part, which contains the body of our opinion, after having premised some general descriptions of divine justice, I maintain sin-punishing justice to be natural, and in its exercise necessary to God. The truth of this assertion forms a very distinguished part of natural theology. The defence of it, to the best of my abilities, both against Socinians, who bitterly oppose it, as well as against certain of our own countrymen, who, in defiance of all truth, under a specious pretext, support the same pernicious scheme with them, shall be the subject of the latter part.
In almost all ages, there have existed some, who have denied the being of a God, although but very few, and these the most abandoned. And as mankind, for the most part, have submitted to the evidence of a divine existence; so there never has existed one, who has ever preferred an indictment of injustice against God, or who hath not declared him to be infinitely just. The despairing complaints of some in deep calamities; the unhallowed expostulations of others at the point of death, do not bespeak the real sentiments of the man, but the misery of his situation, As for instance, that expostulation of Job x. 3. 'Is it good unto thee that thou shouldst oppress?' And among the Gentiles, that of Brutus, 'O wretched virtue! how mere a nothing art thou, but a name.' And that furious exclamation of Titus, when dying, related by Suetonius, 'who, pulling aside his curtains, and looking up to the heavens, complained, that his life was taken from him, undeservedly, and unjustly.' Of the same kind was that late dreadful epiphonemad of a despairing Italian, related by Mersennus, who, speaking of God and the devil, in dread contempt of divine justice, exclaimed, 'Let the strongest take me.'
But as the judgments of God are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out,' those who have refused to submit to his absolute dominion and supreme jurisdiction (some monstrous human characters), have been hardy enough to assert that there is no God, rather than venture to call him unjust. Hence that common couplet.
Marmoreo tumulo Licinus jacet, at Cato parvo,
A sudden unconnected exclamation.