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JOHN OWEN, D. D. of Queen's College, Oxford, was lineally descended from the prince of Glamorgan, one of the last family of the five regal tribes of Wales. Henry Owen, father of the Doctor, was some time minister at Stadham in Oxfordshire, and reckoned a strict puritan. John, his second son, was born in 1616. Such was his proficiency in learning, that he was admitted to the university at 12 years of age. He there pursued his studies with such diligence, that for several years he allowed himself but four hours sleep in a night. His whole aim was, as he afterward confessed with shame and sorrow, to rise to eminence in church or state. When Archbishop Laud imposed several superstitious rites on the university, Mr. Owen had received so much light, that his conscience could not submit to them; and God had now made such gracious impressions on his heart, as inspired him with warm zeal for the purity of his worship and reformation in the church. Upon this his friends forsook Vol. III. No. 2.
him, as one infected with puritanism, and he became so obnox ious to the Laudensian party, that he was forced to leave the college. About this time he was exercised with many perplexing thoughts about his spiritual state, which, with his outward troubles, threw him into a deep melancholy, that lasted three months, and it was nearly five years before he attained a settled peace.
When the civil war commenced, he espoused the Parliament's cause, which his uncle, who had supported him at college, so vehemently resented, that he at once turned him out of his favour, and settled his estate upon another person. He then lived with a gentleman of honour, who, though a royalist, used him with great civility; but he going into the king's army, Mr. Owen went to London, where he was a perfect stranger. One Lord's day he went to Aldermanbury church, to hear Mr. Calamy; but a country minister (of whom he could never after hear any thing more) preached on Matt. viii. 26 which discourse was blest for the
removal of his doubts, and laid the foundation of that solid peace and comfort, which he enjoyed through his future life. His health was now restored, and he wrote his book, called a Display of Arminianism, which made way for his advancement. The committee for ejecting scandalous ministers presented him, on account of it, with the living of Fordham in Essex, where he continued a year and a half, to the great satisfaction of the parish and country round about. On a report, that the sequestered incumbent was dead, the patron, who had no regard for Mr. Owen, presented the living to another; on which the people at Coggeshall, about five miles distant, invited him to be their minister, and the Earl of Warwick, the patron, readily gave him the living. Here he preached to a more judicious and more numerous congregation (seldom fewer than two thousand) with great success. Hitherto he had been a Presbyterian; but upon further inquiry he was convinced, that the Congregational plan was most agreeable to the New Testament. He accordingly formed a church upon it, which flourished many years after his death. So great a man could not be concealed. He was called to preach before the Parliament in 1646, and several times afterward on special occasions, particularly the day after the death of Charles I. His discourse was on Jer. xv. 19, 20, and deserves to be recorded, as a perpetual monument of his integrity, wisdom, and modesty. Soon after, calling on general Fairfax, he met Cromwell, who, laying his hands on his shoulders, said to
him, "Sir, you are the person I must be acquainted with ;" and from that time he contracted an intimate friendship with him, which continued till death. He informed Mr. Owen of his intended expedition into Ireland, and insisted on his presiding in the college at Dublin. With great reluctance he complied, and continued there about a year and a half, preaching and overseeing the affairs of the college. He then returned to Coggeshall, but was soon called to preach at Whitehall.
In September, 1650, Cromwell required him to go with him into Scotland. Having staid at Edinburgh half a year, he once more returned to his people at Coggeshall, with whom he hoped to spend the remainder of his days. But he was soon called by the House of Commons to the deanry of Christ Church, Oxford, which, with the consent of his church, he accepted. In the following year (when he was also diplomated D. D.) he was chosen Vice Chancellor of the university, in which office he continued about five years. This honourable trust he managed with singular prudence. He took care to restrain the vicious, to encourage the pious, to prefer men of learning and industry, and under his administration the whole body of the university was reduced to good order, and furnished a number of excellent scholars, and persons of distin guished piety. He discovered great moderation toward Presbyterians and Episcopalians; to the former he gave several vacant livings at his disposal, and the latter he was ever ready to oblige. He was hospitable in his
house; generous in his favours, and charitable to the poor, especially to poor scholars, some of whom he took into his own family, and maintained at his own charge. He still redeemed time for his studies, preaching at St. Mary's and often at Stadham, and other adjacent places, and writing some excellent books. In 1657 he gave place to Dr. Conant as Vice Chancellor, and in 1659 he was cast out of his deanry, not long after Richard was made Protector.
After the Doctor had quitted his public station, he retired to Stadham, where he possessed a good estate, and lived privately, till the persecution obliged him to remove from place to place, and at length he came to London, where he preached, as he had opportunity, and continued writing. His animadversions on a popish book, called Fiat Lux, recommended him to the esteem of Chancellor Hyde, who assured him that he had deserved "the best of all English Protestants of late years, and that the church was bound to own and advance him;" at the same time offering him preferment, if he would accept it; but he expressed his surprise, that so learned a man embraced the novel opinion of independency. The Doctor offered to prove that it was practised several hundred years after Christ, against any bishop, his lordship should please to appoint. But notwithstanding all the good service the Doctor had done the church of England, he was persecuted from place to place. When laid aside here, he had thoughts of going into New England, where he was invited to the government of their uni
versity, but he was stopped by particular orders from the king. He was afterward invited to be professor of divinity in the United Provinces; but he felt such a love for his native country, that he could not quit it, while there was any opportunity of being serviceable in it.
During the indulgence of Charles he was assiduous in preaching, and set up a lecture, to which many persons of quality and eminent citizens resorted. The writings, which he continued to produce, drew upon him the admiration and respect of several persons of honour, particularly the Earl of Orrery, the Earl of Anglesea, Lord Willoughby, Lord Wharton, Lord Berkley, and Sir John Trevor. The Duke of York, also, sent for him, and several times discoursed with him concerning the Dissenters; and after his return to London he was sent for by king Charles himself, who discoursed with him two hours, assuring him of his favour and respect, telling him he might have access to him when he would. At the same time he assured the Doctor he was for liberty of conscience, and was sensible of the wrong, done to the Dissenters; as a testimony of which, he gave him a thousand guineas to distribute among those, who had suffered the most.
The Doctor had friends also among the Bishops, particularly Dr. Wilkins, Bishop of Chester, and Dr. Barlow, Bishop of Lincoln.
His great worth procured him the esteem of many strangers, who resorted to him from foreign countries; and many foreign divines, having read his
Latin works, learned English for the benefit of the rest. His correspondence with the learned abroad was great, and several travelled into England, to converse with him. His nu merous labours brought on him frequent infirmities, by which his public services were much interrupted; but he was continually writing, whenever he was able to sit up. At length he retired to Kensington. As he was once coming from thence to London, two informers seized his carriage, but he was discharged by Sir Edmund Godfrey, a justice of the peace, who providentially came by at that instant. The Doctor afterward removed to a house of his own at Ealing, where he finished his course. He there employed his thoughts on the other world, as one drawing near it, which produced his Meditations on the glory of Christ, in which he breathed out the devotion of a soul continually growing in the temper of the heavenly state.
In a letter, which he dictated but two days before his death, he thus expresses himself to a particular friend, "I am going to him, whom my soul has loved, or rather, who has loved me with an everlasting love, which is the whole ground of all my consolation. I am leaving the ship of the church in a storm; but, while the great Pilot is in it, the loss of a poor under rower will be inconsiderable. Live, and pray, and hope, and wait patiently, and do not despond; the prom. ise stands invincible, that he will never leave us, nor forsake us."
He died on Bartholomew day, 1683, aged 67. His stature was tall; his visage grave, majestic,
and comely; his aspect and deportment genteel; his mental abilities incomparable; his temper affable and courteous; his common discourse moderately facetious. He was a great master of his passions, and possessed great serenity of mind, neither elated by honour or estatę, nor depressed by difficulties. Of great moderation in judgment, and of a charitable spirit, not confining Christianity to a party. A friend of peace, and a diligent promoter of it among Christians. In point of learning he was one of the brightest ornaments of Oxford. Even Mr. Wood owns that "he was well skilled in the tongues, in Rabbinical learning, and Jewish rites; that he had a great command of his English pen, and was one of the fairest and genteelest writers against the church of England." His Christian temper in managing controyersy was indeed admirable. He was well acquainted with men and things, and would shrewdly guess a man's temper and designs on the first acquaint ance.
His ministerial labours were incredible. He was an excellent preacher, having a good elocution, graceful and affectionate.
On all occasions he could, without any premeditation, express himself pertinently on any subject; yet his sermons were well studied, though he general, ly used no notes in the pulpit. His piety and devotion were em inent, and his experimental knowledge of spiritual things very great; and in all relations he demeaned himself as a Christian.
Dr. Savage, one of his succes sors, observes "that he was one of the first of our countrymen,
who entertained just and liberal notions of the right of private judgment and toleration; which he was honest and zealous enough to maintain in his writings, when the times were the least encouraging; not only when the Dissenters were suffering persecution under Charles II. but in 1647, when the Parliament was "arrived at full power, and he was in much repute."
WORKS. Folio. The saints' perseverance. Expositions on the Hebrews, 4 volumes. Complete collection of his sermons and several tracts. Discourses on the work of the Spirit.
Quarto. A display of Arminianism. Duty of pastors and people. Salus Electorum Sanguis Jesu. Of the death of Christ. Vindicia Evangelica, or the mystery of the gospel. Of communion with God, Father, Son, and Spirit. De naturæ, ortu, progressu, and studio veræ Theologia. Exposition of the 130th Psalm. Doctrine of justification by faith through imputed righteousness. Glorious mystery of the person of Christ. Grace and duty of being spiritually minded. Inquiry into the original, nature, &c. of evangeli, cal churches. True nature of a gospel church, and its government. Review of the annotations of Grotius. Discourse on liturgies and their imposition. Indulgence and toleration considered. A peace-offering, or plea for indulgence. Church of Rome no safe guide. Con
siderations about union among Protestants. Vindication of Nonconformists from charge of schism. Account of the nature of the Protestant religion.
Octavo. Two catechisms. Rules for church fellowship. Diatriba de justitia divinæ. Mortification of sin in believers. Discourse of the true nature of schism. Review of ditto, with a vindication of Congregational churches. Nature and power of temptation. Defence of Cotton against Cawdry. Exercitationes 4 pro sacris Scripturis. Divine origin and authority of Scripture. Primer for children. Animadversions on Fiat Lux. Vindication of ditto. Brief instruction in the worship of God. Nature of indwelling sin. Truth and innocence vindicated in a survey of a discourse of ecclesiasti cal polity. Brief vindication of the Trinity. Of the Sabbath, &c. Of evangelical love, church peace and unity. Vindication of his book on communion with God, against Dr. Sherlock's exceptions. Nature of apostasy. Reason of faith in Scripture. Ways and means of understand. ing the mind of God in Scripture. Testimony to the goodness and severity of God in his dealing with sinful churches and nations. Work of the Spirit in prayer. Meditations on the glory of Christ, &c. in two parts. Dominion of sin and grace. Evidence of the faith of God's elect; and three sermons in the morning exercises.