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Life of Dr Owen
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To M. Du Moulin

Sir, — I have received your strictures upon our Confession, wherein you charge it with palpable contradiction, nonsense, enthusiasm, and false doctrine, — that is, all the evils that can be crowded into such a writing; and I understand, by another letter since, that you have sent the same paper to others, — which is the sole cause of the return which I now make to you; and I beg your pardon in telling you, that all your instances are your own mistakes, or the mistakes of your friend, as I shall briefly manifest to you.

First, you say there is a plain contradiction between chap. iii. art. 6, and chap. xxx. art. 2. In the first place it is said, “None but the elect are redeemed;” but in the other it is said, “The sacrament is a memorial of the one offering of Christ upon the cross for all.” I do admire to find this charged by you as a contradiction; for you know full well that all our divines who maintain that the elect only were redeemed effectually by Christ, do yet grant that Christ died for all, in the Scripture sense of the word, — that is, some of all sorts, — and never dreamt of any contradiction in their assertion. But your mistake is worse; for in chap. xxx. art. 2, which you refer to, there is not one word mentioned of Christ’s dying for all; but that the sacrifice which he offered was offered once for all, — which is the expression of the apostle, to intimate that it was but once offered, in opposition to the frequent repetitions of the sacrifices of the Jews. And pray, if you go on in your translation, do not fall into a mistake upon it; for in the very close of the article it is said, “That Christ’s only sacrifice was a propitiation for the sins of all the elect.” The words you urge out of 2 Pet. ii. 1, are not in the text: they are, by your quotation, “Denied him that had redeemed them;” but it is, “Denied the sovereign Lord which had bought them;” — which words have quite another sense.

Something you quote out of chap. vi. art. 6, where I think you suppose we do not distinguish between the “reatus” and “macula” of sin; and do think that we grant the defilement of Adam’s person, and consequently of all intermediate propagations, to be imputed unto us. Pray, sir, give me leave to say, that I cannot but think your mind was employed about other things when you dreamt of our being guilty of such a folly and madness; neither is there any one word in the Confession which gives countenance unto it. If you would throw away so much time as to read any part of my late discourse about justification, it is not unlikely but that you would see something of the nature of the guilt of sin, and the imputation of it, which may give you satisfaction.

In your next instance, which you refer unto chap. xix. art. 3, by some mistake (there being nothing to the purpose in that place), you say, “It is presupposed that some who have attained age may be elected, and yet have not the knowledge of Jesus Christ; which is a pure enthusiasm, and is contrary to chap. xx. art. 2.” Why, sir! that many who are eternally elected, and yet for some season — some less, some longer — do live without the knowledge of Christ, until they are converted by the Word and Spirit, is not an enthusiasm; but your exception is contrary to the whole Scripture, contrary to the experience of all days and ages, overthrows the work of the ministry, and is so absurd to sense, and reason, and daily experience, that I know not what to say to it; only, I confess that if, with some of the Arminians, you do not believe that any are elected from eternity, or before they do actually believe, something may be spoken to countenance your exception: but that we cannot regard, for it was our design to oppose all their errors.

Your next instance is a plain charge of false doctrine, taken out of chap. xi. art. 1, speaking, as you say, of the active obedience of Christ imputed to us, which is contrary to art. 3, where it is said that Christ acquits by his obedience in death, and not by his fulfilling of the law. Sir, you still give me cause of some new admiration in all these objections, and I fear you make use of some corrupt copy of our Confession; — for we say not, as you allege, that Christ by his obedience in death did acquit us, and not by his fulfilling of the law; but we say that Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those who are justified, — which comprehends both his active and passive righteousness. But you add a reason, whereby you design to disprove this doctrine of our concerning the imputation of the active righteousness of Christ unto our justification. Why, you say, it is contrary to reason; for that we are freed from satisfying God’s justice by being punished by death, but not from the fulfilling of the law: therefore the fulfilling of the law by Christ is no satisfaction for us, — we are not freed from active obedience, but from passive obedience. Pray, sir, do not mistake that such mistaken reasonings can give us any occasion to change our judgments in an article of truth of this importance. When you shall have been pleased to read my book of Justification, and have answered solidly what I have written upon this subject, I will tell you more of my mind. In the meantime I tell you, we are by the death of Christ freed from all sufferings as they are purely penal, and the effect of the curse, though they spring out of that root; only, sir, you and I know full well that we are not freed from pains, afflictions, and death itself, — which had never been, had they not proceeded from the curse of the law. And so, sir, by the obedience of Christ we are freed from obedience to the law, as to justification by the works thereof. We are no more obliged to obey the law in order to justification than we are obliged to undergo the penalties of the law to answer its curse. But these things have been fully debated elsewhere.

In the last place, your friend wishes it could be avoided, and declined to speak any thing about universal grace, for that it would raise some or most divines against it. I judge myself beholden to your friend for the advice, which I presume he judges to be good and wholesome; but I beg your pardon that I cannot comply with it, although I shall not reflect with any severity upon them who are of another judgment; and, to tell you the truth, the immethodical new method introduced to give countenance to universal grace, is, in my judgment, suited to draw us off from all due conceptions concerning the grace of God in Jesus Christ; which I shall not now stay to demonstrate, though I will not decline the undertaking of it, if God gives me strength, at any time. And I do wonder to hear you say that many, if not most divines, will rise against it, who have published in print that there were but two in England that were of that opinion, and have strenuously opposed it yourself. How things are in France, I know not; but at Geneva, in Holland, in Switzerland, in all the Protestant churches of Germany, I do know that this universal grace is exploded. Sir, I shall trouble you no farther. I pray be pleased to accept of my desire to undeceive you in those things, wherein either a corrupt copy of our Confession or the reasonings of other men have given you so many mistaken conceptions about our Confession. — I am, Sir, yours,

J. Owen.

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