Owen - BX9315 O81

$ OPPOSITION MADE UNTO THE CHURCH malice Satan falls short of thecontrivanceof divine wis- dom and power. For all that he attained by effecting his death, in the hour of darkness, was but the breaking of his own head, the destruction ofhis works, with the ruin of his kingdom: and what yet remains to consum- mate his eternal misery, he shall himself work out in his opposition unto the church. His restless malice and darkness will not suffer him to give over the pursuit of his rage, until nothing remains to give him a full en- trance into endless torments, which he hasteneth every day. For when he shall have filled up the measure of his sins, and of the sins of the world in being instru- mental unto hisrage, eternal judgmentshall put all things unto their issue. Through that shall he, with the world, enter into everlasting flames, and the whole church built on the rock into rest and glory. No sooner did the churchof the New Testament begin to arise on this foundation, but the whole world of Jews and Gentiles set themselves with open force to destroy it. And all that they contended with the church about was their faith and confession of it, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son ofthe living God. This foundation they would cast it from, or exterminate it out of the earth. What were the endeavours of the gates ofhell in this kind, with what heightof rage, with what bloody and inhuman cruelties they were exercised and executed, we have some obscure remembrance in the stories that re- main, from the martyrdom of Stephen unto the days of Constantine. But although there be enough remaining on record to give us aview of the insatiable malice of the old murderer, and anastonishingrepresentation ofhuman nature degenerating into his image, in the perpetration of all horrid inhuman cruelties, yet is it all as nothing, in comparison of that prospect which the last day will giveof them, when the earth shall disclose all the blood that it bath received, and the righteous Judge shall lay open all the contrivances for its effusion, with the rage and malice wherewith they were attended. The same rage continueth yet unalloyed in its principles. And although God in many places restrain and shut it up in his providence, by the circumstances of human affairs, yet as it bath the least advantage, as it finds any door open unto it, it endeavours to act itself in lesser or higher degrees. But whatever dismal appearance of things there may be in the world, we need not fear the ruin of the church by the most bloody oppositions. Former experiences will give security against future events. It is built on the Rock, and those gates ofhell shall not pre- vail against it. The second way whereby Satan attempted the same end, and yet continueth so to do, was bypernicious er- rors and heresies. For all the heresies wherewith the church was assaulted and pestered for some centuries of years, were oppositions unto their faith in the person of Christ. I shall briefly reflect on the heads of this oppo- sition, because they are nosy after a revolution of so many ages, lifting up themselves again, though under new vizards and pretences. They were of three sorts. 1. That which introducedother doctrinesand notions of divine things, absolutely exclusive of the person and mediation of Christ. Such was that of the Gnostics, begun as it is supposed by Simon the magician. A sort of people they were with whom the first churches, after the decease of the apostles, were exceedingly pestered, and the faith ofmany was overthrown. For instead of Christ, and God in him reconciling the world unto himself, and the obedience of faith thereon according unto the gospel, they introduced endless fables, genea- logies, and conjugationsofdeities, or divine powers, which practically issued in this, that Christ was such an ema- nation oflight and knowledge in them, as made them per. feet; that is, it took away all differences of good and evil, and gave them liberty to do what they pleases without sense of sin, or danger of punishment. Thi was the first way that Satan attempted the faith of th church, namely, by substituting a perfecting light av knowledge in the room of the person of Christ; and, f aught I know, it may be one of the last ways wherei,- hewill endeavourthe accomplishment ofthesame design. Nor had I made mention of these pernicious imaginations, which have lain rotting in oblivion for so many genera- tions, but that some again endeavour to revive them, at least so far as they were advanced and directed against the faith and knowledge of the person of Christ. 2. Satan attempted the same work by them who denied his divine nature, that is, in effect denied him to be the Son of the living God, on the faith whereof the church is built. And these were of two sorts. 1. Such as plainly and openly denied him to have any pre-existence unto his conception and birth of the holy virgin. Such were the Ebionites, Samosetanians, -and Photinians. For they all affirmed him to be a mere