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PRESENCE WITH A PEOPLE THE SPRING OF THEIR PROSPERITY; WITH THEIR SPECIAL INTEREST IN ABIDING WITH HIM.
BEFORE the same Parliament to which the last discourse was delivered, Dr.
Owen made a similar appearance on October 30, 1656. The close of the sermon gives a vivid picture of the religious state of Wales. We have seen that, in the first sermon he ever preached before Parliament, he took the opportunity of urging the necessity of some measures for promoting education and religion in that part of Britain. The circumstance that he was descended from a Welsh family, may account for the special interest which he evinced in the religious welfare of Wales. Great religious destitution prevailed in it. The Welsh at this time had neither Bibles nor Catechisms, and had scarcely sermon four times in the year. In 1649 an act was passed for the better propagation of the gospel, and the ejection of scandalous clergymen, in Wales. From the report of the commissioners in 1652, one hundred and seventy-five ministers had been ejected since 1645. Through the exertions of Parliament, one hundred and fifty preachers were appointed to officiate in thirteen Welsh counties; whose zeal in their duties may be judged of from the fact, that most of them preached three or four days every week. A schoolmaster was appointed for every market-town; and two of superior qualifications, educated at the university, were supported in all the larger towns. In addition to all this agency, six itinerant preachers were appointed for each county, at an allowance of £ 100; these were aided by the services of thirty, two ministers; and as all these arrangements were insufficient to meet the necessities of the case, pious laymen traveled through the counties, and conducted public devotion in the presence of the people. The first sermon of Owen had, accordingly, borne ample fruit. Whitelocke tells us, that in 1649 every Friday was devoted by Parliament to the purpose of consulting in regard to the spread and maintenance of religion. These facts deserve to be known to their credit, as evincing a lively and zealous interest in the highest welfare of the people, whatever view may be taken of the duty or competency of the state to make such provision for the support of the gospel and the spiritual enlightenment of a nation. For full details on these points, the reader may be referred to Neal, vol. iv. pp. 14 and 104, and the publications of the Revelation Vavasor Powell, one of the commissioners, in defense of their proceedings. ó ED. Friday, the 31st October 1656. ORDERED by the Parliament, That the thanks of this House be given unto Dr. Owen, Dean of Christ Church and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxon, for his great pains taken in his sermon before this House yesterday, in Margaretís Church, Westminster, being a day set apart for solemn fasting and humiliation; and that he be desired to print his sermon; and that he have the like privilege in printing thereof as hath been formerly allowed to others in like cases. And Major-General Kelsey is desired to give him the thanks of this House accordingly. Hen. Scobell, Clerk of the Parliament.
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF ENGLAND, IRELAND, AND SCOTLAND, WITH THE DOMINIONS THEREUNTO BELONGING. SIRS, MY hope that some impression may possibly remain upon your hearts and spirits of and from the things delivered unto you in the ensuing sermon, makes me willing unto the obedience of presenting it unto you, upon your command, in this manner. Were I not persuaded that your peace, interest, and concernment are expressed therein, and knew not with what simplicity of heart you were minded thereof, I should have chosen, on many accounts, to have waived this duty. But having now performed what is incumbent on me to render this service useful, recommending it yet farther to the grace of God, I humbly beg that it may not, in this return unto you, be looked on as a thing of course, and so laid aside; but be reviewed with that intension of spirit which is necessary in duties of this importance; whereby you may manifest that your command unto this service was grounded on a sense of some advantage to be made by that performance of it. Sundry things, I confess, that were spoken unto you are gone beyond my recovery, having had their rise from the present assistance which God was pleased to afford in the management of the work itself. The sum of what was provided beforehand, and no otherwise, without the least addition, is here presented unto you, with hearty desires that the vision of the truth herein considered may be to them that love you, and the accomplishment thereof be found in the midst of you. So prays Your humblest Servant In our dear Lord Jesus, JOHN OWEN. Nov. 17, 1656.