John Owen on the 39 Articles

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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I embrace the doctrine of the church of England, as declared in the Thirty-nine Articles, and other approved public writings of the most famous bishops and other divines thereof. I avow her rejection of the pretended authority and real errors of your church [of Rome] to be her duty, and justifiable. The same is my judgment in reference unto all other protestant churches in the world, in all things wherein they agree among themselves; which is in all things necessary that God may be acceptably worshipped and themselves saved. ...

For more, see John Owen on the 39 Articles.
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
I greatly appreciate his Reformed Catholicity in this regard. Men like Edward Reynolds, Thomas Adams, Ezekiel Hopkins, James Ussher, George Downame, John Davenant, and even some post-Act of Uniformity divines such as John Pearson, William Beveridge, Thomas Barlow, and others shouldn't be forgotten by those of us from non-conformist traditions. I'm curious how he would square his affirmation with Article 20 of the 39 Articles though.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I greatly appreciate his Reformed Catholicity in this regard. Men like Edward Reynolds, Thomas Adams, Ezekiel Hopkins, James Ussher, George Downame, John Davenant, and even some post-Act of Uniformity divines such as John Pearson, William Beveridge, Thomas Barlow, and others shouldn't be forgotten by those of us from non-conformist traditions. I'm curious how he would square his affirmation with Article 20 of the 39 Articles though.

There are two possible explanations. The first is that he is only referring to the doctrinal sections of the 39 Articles (I think that there may be another reference, in volume 13, wherein he says as much). The second is that he interpreted "ceremonies" in Article 20 to refer to ceremonies about the worship of God, rather than ceremonies in the worship of God. While I used to hold the view that Article 20 was clearly at odds with the RPW, I am no longer so certain that that is the case. While I do not like its terminology as it is too open to abuse, chapter 20 of the 1560 Scots Confession says something very similar: "Not that we think any policy or order of ceremonies can be appointed for all ages, times, and places; for as ceremonies which men have devised are but temporal, so they may, and ought to be, changed, when the foster superstition rather than edify the Kirk."
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
@Shanny01 Here is the specific reference; John Owen acknowledges no serious difference of substance between the Savoy Declaration (which I presume he is referring to in the extract below) and the 39 Articles in A Peace Offering (1667):

Neither doth the addition of ours disturb the harmony that is in the confessions of the reformed churches, being in all material points the same with them, and no otherwise differing from any of them in things of less importance than as they do one from another, and as all confessions have done, since the first introduction of their use into the churches of God. That which amongst them is of most special regard and consideration unto us, is that of the church of England, declared in the articles of religion; and herein, in particular, what is purely doctrinal we fully embrace and constantly adhere unto. And though we shall not compare ourselves with others in ability to assert, teach, and maintain it, yet we cannot, whilst we are conscious unto ourselves of our integrity in our cordial adherence unto it, but hear with regret the clamorous accusations of some against us for departing from the church of England, who have not given that testimony of their adherence unto its doctrine, which we have done, and, by the help of God, shall continue to do.

It is true, indeed, there are some enlargements in our confession of the things delivered in the Thirty-nine Articles, some additions of things not expressly contained in them, which we were necessitated unto for the full declaration of our minds, and to obviate that obloquy which otherwise we might have been exposed unto, as reserving our judgment in matters that had received great public debate since the composure of those articles; but yet we are fully persuaded that there is not any proposition in our whole confession which is repugnant unto any thing contained in the articles, or is not by just consequence deducible from them. Neither were we the authors of the explanations or enlargements mentioned, there being nothing contained in them but what we have learned and been instructed in from the writings of the most famous divines of this nation, bishops and others, ever since the Reformation; which being published by legal authority, have been always esteemed, both at home and abroad, faithfully to represent the doctrine of the church of England. We have no new faith to declare, no new doctrine to teach, no private opinions to divulge, no point or truth do we profess, no not one, which hath not been declared, taught, divulged, and esteemed as the common doctrine of the church of England, ever since the Reformation. (Works, 13: 551-52).
 

Shanny01

Puritan Board Freshman
It definitely is an ambiguous statement, especially since you can find someone like Ezekiel Hopkins who, per his comments on the 2nd Commandment, seems to lean towards a non-Laudian view, given (presumably) he would have held to the 39 Articles.
"Things which belong to the worship of God may be considered either as parts of that worship, or only as circumstances and modifications of it.
Therefore whatsoever is imposed on us as a substantial part of the worship of God, if it be not expressly required of us in the Holy Scriptures, is to be not only refused but abominated ; for this is a plain addition to what God hath commanded ; and by it we lay an imputation upon him as though he wanted wisdom to ordain what is necessary for his own service." Hopkins, Ezekiel An Exposition of the Ten Commandments
 
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Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
It definitely is an ambiguous statement, especially since you can find someone like Ezekiel Hopkins who, per his comments on the 2nd Commandment, seems to lean towards a non-Laudian view, given (presumably) he would have held to the 39 Articles.
"Things which belong to the worship of God may be considered either as parts of that worship, or only as circumstances and modifications of it.
Therefore whatsoever is imposed on us as a substantial part of the worship of God, if it be not expressly required of us in the Holy Scriptures, is to be not only refused but abominated ; for this is a plain addition to what God hath commanded ; and by it we lay an imputation upon him as though he wanted wisdom to ordain what is necessary for his own service." Hopkins, Ezekiel An Exposition of the Ten Commandments

The Church of Ireland's Irish Articles of Religion clearly argued for the regulative principle of worship (see Article 52) while also having a statement that sounded similar to Article 20 of the 39 Articles: "77. Every particular Church hath authority to institute, to change, and clean to put away ceremonies and other Ecclesiastical rites as they be superfluous or be abused; and to constitute other, making more to seemliness, to order, or edification."
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Here is the blog post on the harmony between the Savoy Declaration and the 39 Articles that also cites the extract from John Owen volume 13 quoted in the earlier post:

... If, then, we evince not the faith we profess to be consonant unto the Scriptures, the doctrine of the primitive church of the first four general councils, the confessions of the reformed churches beyond the seas, and that in particular of the church of England, we shall acknowledge the condition of things in reference unto that liberty which we humbly desire to be otherwise stated than hitherto we have apprehended. But if this be the condition of our profession,—as we hope it is manifest unto all unprejudiced and ingenuous persons to be, who esteem it their duty not to judge a matter of so great importance before they hear it,—we can hardly think that they give up themselves to the conduct of the meek and holy Spirit of Christ who are ready to breathe out extirpation against us, as to our interest in this world, for the profession of those principles in the things of God which they pretend to build their own interests upon for another. ...

For more, see John Owen on the doctrinal harmony between the Savoy Declaration and the 39 Articles.
 
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