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ages, reaped an abundant crop of tares from that part of his Lordship which he hired out to be improved by man, though from the nature of human affairs, not without much noise, tumult, blood, and slaughter; so from that which he thought proper to manage himself, without any delegated assistance, he has received a more abundant and richer crop of infernal fruit.
The exertions of Satan against the truth of the gospel may be distinguished into two divisions. In the first, as the god of this world, he endeavours to darken the minds of unbelievers, that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may not shine into them.' With what success he exercises this souldestroying employment we cannot pretend to say; but there is reason to lament that he hath succeeded, and still succeeds, beyond his utmost hope. In the other, he carries on an implacable war, an unremitting strife, not as formerly with Michael about the body of Moses, but about the Spirit of Christ; about some of the more distinguished articles of the truth, and the application of each of them, in order to cultivate communion with God the Father and with his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, against the hearts of the godly, and the new creature formed within them.
In this situation of affairs, most Christian writers have made it their study to oppose that first effort of the devil, whereby, through means of his instruments, he openly endeavours to suppress the light, both natural and revealed; but they have not been equally solicitous to succour the minds of believers, when wrestling, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spirits of wickedness in high places,' and almost ready to sink under the contest. Hence, I say, a very minute investigation
hath been set on foot by many, of those articles of religion which he has openly, through the instrumentality of the slaves of error and darkness, attacked, and the vindication of them made clear and plain. But those, which, both from their relation to practice, and a holy communion full of spiritual joy, to be cultivated with God, the old serpent hath reserved for his own attack in the hearts of believers, most writers, partly either because they were ignorant of his wiles, or partly because they saw not much evil publicly arising thence, and partly because the arguments of the adversary were not founded on any general principle, but only to be deduced from the private and particular state and case of individuals, have either passed over, or very slightly touched upon.
As to what pertains to theology itself, or that ' knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,' wherewith being filled, 'we ourselves become pure and perfected to every good work,' and fit ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, apt to teach, rightly dividing the word of truth;' that subject, I say, though a common and chief topic in the writings both of the schoolmen and others on religion, many have acknowledged to their fatal experience, when too late, is treated in too perplexed and intricate a manner to be of any real and general service.
For while they are warmly employed in disputing, whether theology be an art or a science, and whether it be a speculative or practical art or science? And while they attempt to measure it exactly by those rules, laws, and methods, which human reason has devised for other sciences, thus endeavouring to render it more plain and clear, they find themselves, to the grief and sorrow of many candidates for the truth, entangled in inextricable difficulties, and left in possession only of a human system of doctrines, having little or no
connexion at all with true theology. I hope, therefore, if I live and the Lord will,' to publish, but from no desire of gainsaying any one, some specimens of evangelical truth on the points before-mentioned, as well as on other subjects.
As to the work that I have now in hand, the first part of the dissertation is, concerning the cause of the death of Christ; and in the execution of which I have the greatest pleasure and satisfaction (though proudly defied by the adversaries, so conceited with themselves and their productions are they), because I have determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified' at least, nothing that could divert my attention from that subject.
But now, learned reader, lest, as the saying is, the gate should become wider than the city,' if you will bear with me, while I say a few things of myself, however little worthy of your notice, I shall immediately conclude the preface.
About two years ago, the parliament of the commonwealth promoted me, while diligently employed, according to the measure of the gift of grace bestowed on me, in preaching the gospel, by their authority and influence, though with reluctance on my part, to a chair in the very celebrated university of Oxford. I mean not to relate what various employments fell to my lot from that period: what frequent journeys I became engaged in; not, indeed, expeditions of pleasure, or on my own or private account; but such as the unavoidable necessities of the university, and the commands of superiors, whose authority was not to be gainsaid, imposed upon me. And now I clearly found, that I, who dreaded almost every academical employment, as being unequal to the task, and at a time too when I
e See Owen on the Spirit.
For what,' says our author, in a long parenthesis, ' could be expected from a
had entertained hope, that through the goodness of God, in giving me leisure and retirement, and strength for study, that the deficiency of genius and penetration, might be made up by industry and diligence, was now so circumstanced that the career of my studies must be interrupted by more and greater impediments than ever before.
For, to mention first, what certainly is most weighty and important, the task of lecturing in public was put upon me, which would strictly and properly require the whole time and attention even of the most grave and experienced divine; and in the discharge of which, unless I had been greatly assisted and encouraged by the candour, piety, submission, and self-denial of the auditors; and by their respect for the divine institution, and their love of the truth, with every kind of indul gence and kind attention towards the earthen vessel, which distinguish most academicians of every rank, age, and description, beyond mankind in general; I had long lost all hope of discharging that province, either to the public advantage, or my own private satisfaction and comfort.
And as most of them are endowed with a pious disposition and Christian temper, and well furnished with superior gifts, and instructed in learning of every kind, which in the present imperfect and depraved state of human nature is apt to fill the minds of men with prejudices against the foolishness of preaching,' and to disapprove the simplicity that is in Christ,' I should be the most ungrateful of mankind, were I not to acknowledge that the humility, diligence, and alacrity with which they attended to, and obeyed the words
man not far advanced in years, who had for several years been very full of employment, and accustomed only to the popular mode of speaking, who being altogether devoted to the investigation and explanation of the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ, had taken leave of all scholastic studies, whose genius is by no means quick, and who had even forgot, in soure measure, the portion of polite learning that he might have formerly acquired.'
of the cross, indulging neither pride of heart, nor animosity of mind, or itching of ears, though dispensed by a most unworthy servant of God in the gospel of his Son, have given, and still give me great courage in the discharge of the different duties of my office.
However, then, the most merciful Father of all things shall, in his infinite wisdom and goodness dispose of the affairs of our university; I could not but give such a public testimony, as a regard to truth and duty required from me, to these very respectable and learned men (however much these treacherous calumniators and falsifying sycophants may rail, and shew their teeth upon the occasion), the heads of the colleges, who have merited so highly of the church, for their distinguished candour, great diligence, uncommon erudition, blameless politeness; many of whom are zealously studious of every kind of literature, and many who by their conduct in the early period of their youth give the most promising hopes of future merit : so that I would venture to affirm, that no impartial and unprejudiced judge will believe that our university hath
Here our author introduces the following observation in a very long parenthesis: 'As reports are every where spread abroad, concerning the abolition and destruction of the colleges, and efforts for that purpose made by some who being entire strangers to every kind of literature, or at least ignorant of every thing of greater antiquity than what their own memory, or that of their fathers can reach, and regardless of the future, imagine the whole globe and bounds of human knowledge to be contained within the limits of their own little cabins, ignorant whether the sun ever shone beyond their own little island or not, neither knowing what they say, nor of whom they make their assertions; and by others who are deeply sunk in the basest of crimes, and who would therefore wish all light distinguishing between good and evil entirely extinguished. For evil doers hate the light, nor do they come to the light, lest their deeds should appear;' that they (mean lurchers hitherto) may fill up the measure of their iniquity with some kind of eclat; to which also may be added those, who never having become candidates for literature themselves, yet, by pushing themselves forward, have unseasonably thrust themselves into such services and offices, as necessarily require knowledge and learning; these, I say, like the fox who had lost his tail, would wish all the world deprived of the means of knowledge, lest their own shameful ignorance, despicable indolence, and total unfitness for the offices which they solicit or hold, should appear to all who have the least degree of understanding and sense; and lastly too, by a despicable herd of prodigal idle fellows, eagerly gaping for the revenues of the university. For these reasons, our author says, he could not but give the above character of the heads and other members of that venerable body: a character which both the truth of the case, and the duty of his office required.