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THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE PROMISES, AND THE SINFULNESS OF STAGGERING:
OPENED IN A SERMON PREACHED AT MARGARET’S IN WESTMINSTER, BEFORE THE PARLIAMENT, FEBRUARY 28, 1649, Being A Day Set Apart For Solemn Humiliation Throughout The Nation.
THE following discourse was preached after Owen’s return from Ireland.
The expedition of Cromwell had been eminently successful in establishing peace, after the massacres and commotions which had long prevailed in that island. Owen, however, had set his heart upon securing for it higher blessings than outward peace, enforced by the conquering sword of the Protector. It is affecting to note the depth of spiritual concern and anxiety he evinces, that Ireland should enjoy the gospel of Christ, as the only cure for its manifold and inveterate disorders. How humbling, that extensive districts of it should have remained to our day substantially under the same wants and necessities which bad a voice so clamant in the ear of Owen! It reads as if the utterance of yesterday, when we find him declaring his heartfelt wish, that “the Irish might enjoy Ireland as long as the moon endureth, so that Jesus Christ might possess the Irish.”
Mr. Orme holds, apparently on good grounds, that this sermon was really delivered before the House of Commons, not in February 1649, as the title bears, but in February 1650. The epistle dedicatory to the preceding sermon on” Righteous Zeal,” etc., has the address and date, “Coggeshall, February 28,” (undoubtedly 1649), which is the same day on which, by the title of the present sermon, he was preaching at London. Some allusions in this sermon are thought to indicate that Owen had been in Ireland; and though, in all the editions of it, the year is said to have been 1649, by the present mode of reckoning it would be 1650. We may add, that in the old collections of Owen’s sermons, this one follows the sermon next in the present order, on Hebrews 12:27. On the other hand, Asty affirms that it was preached before Owen went to Ireland, and speaks of it as giving rise to his acquaintance with Cromwell. The allusions to Ireland may not be regarded by some as very decisive on the point; and it is singular that the number of the year should differ from the mode of reckoning common to the dates of the other sermons published by Owen about this time. Since authorities differ, we have given the evidence on both sides, and the sermons appear in the order in which, by the dates and titles, they are said to have been preached. Mr. Orme seems to us clearly in the right; and, though the matter is not of much importance, we have, under this view, some record in this discourse of the impressions left on the mind of Owen by his visit to Ireland. On the first occasion on which he ever preached before the House of Commons, he entreated that the destitute parts of England and Wales might be supplied with the gospel; and now on his return from his mission to Dublin, as soon as he has the ear of Parliament, he implores, in fervent terms, that the gospel may be sent to Ireland. The fact bespeaks his own heartfelt sense of its value, and shows how wisely be could turn opportunities to account for the advancement of his Master’s cause. — ED.
Die Veneris, 1 Martii, 1649.
Ordered by the Parliament, That the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Owen for his great pains taken in his sermon preached yesterday before the Parliament, at Margaret’s, Westminster (being a day set apart for public humiliation); and that he be desired to print his sermon; and that he have the like privilege in printing as others in like cases have usually had. Ordered, That Sir William Masham do give the thanks of this House to Mr. Owen accordingly. HEN. SCOBELL, Cler. Perl.
TO THE COMMONS OF ENGLAND, IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED.
SIRS, THAT God in whose hands your breath is, and whose are all your ways, having caused various seasons to pass over you, and in them all manifested that his works are truth and his ways judgment, calls earnestly by them for that walking before him which is required from them who, with other distinguishing mercies, are interested in the specialty of his protecting providence. As, in a view of present enjoyments, to sacrifice to your net, and burn incense to your drag, as though by them your portion were fat and plenteous, is an exceeding provocation to the eyes of his glory; so, to press to the residue of your desires and expectations by an arm of flesh, the designings and contrivances of carnal reason, with outwardly appearing mediums of their accomplishment, is no less an abomination to him.
Though there may be a present sweetness to them that find the life of the hand, yet their latter end will be, to lie down in sorrow. That you might be prevailed on to give glory to God, by steadfastness in believing, committing all your ways to him, with patience in well-doing, to the contempt of the most varnished appearance of carnal policy, was my peculiar aim in this ensuing sermon.
That which added ready willingness to my obedience unto your commands for the preaching and publishing hereof, being a serious proposal for the advancement and propagation of the gospel in another nation, is here again recommended to your thoughts, by Your Most Humble Servant In Our Common Master, J. Owen.
March 8, 1649.