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LIFE OF JOHN OWEN, D. D.
§1. Introduction. §2. His pedigree and parentage. §3. His birth, education, and uncommon application to studies. §4. His youthful vanity. §5. How supported at College. §6. Forced to leave it. Ordained. §7. His great convictions and distress. §8. Disowned of his Uncle, he removes to London. §9. How relieved. §10. His afflictions useful. §11. Settles at Fordham and is married there. §12. Removes to Coggeshall. $13. Becomes more popular. §14. His first acquaintance with Fairfax and Cromwell. Goes to Ireland. §15. To Scotland. $16. Made Vice-chancellor. §17. His prudent and moderate conduct. §18. With due authority. $19. Is hospitable and generous. §20. His exemplary diligence. §21. Retires to Stadham. $22. Is offered preferment. §23. Yet persecuted. $24. Calumniated. §25. Improves his liberty. $26. Opposes the conventicle bill. §27. Noticed by King Charles II. $28. Sickness and death. $29. Character. §30. Epitaph.
§ 1. DOCTOR JOHN OWEN, the celebrated author of the following expository work, was a person confessedly of superior talents, erudition, and piety. This is abundantly witnessed by his cotemporaries, and corroborated by the concessions of those who were enemies to his theological principles. It is to be lamented that the materials requisite to fill up his just character are not more ample; particularly those parts of his private conduct, which could be known but to a few; but which, nevertheless, are the truest indications of those motives that reflect a lustre on actions, which otherwise may appear common. However, we are furnished with as
many facts and circumstances, of undoubted authenticity, in connexion with his writings, as prove him to be an extraordinary person, whether we consider him as the profound scholar and divine, or the experienced humble Christian.
§2. He derived his pedigree from LEWIS OWEN, of Llwyn, near Dolgelle, Merionethshire, Esquire.* GRIFFITH, the fifth son of this gentleman, had a daughter named SUSAN, who was married to HUMPHREY, a branch of the same family in another line. This HUMPIIREY had fifteen sons, and the youngest, whose name was HENRY, was our author's father.†
* This gentleman, who was heir to an estate of about 3001. per annum, was lineally descended (according to LEWIS DYNN's book of records relating to the antiquities of Wales) from a younger son of Llewelyn [not Kewelyn, I presume, as some have written it] ap GwRGAN, Prince of Glamorgan, and Lord of Cardiffe, which was the last family of the five royal tribes of Wales. He was Vice-chamberlain, and Baron of the Exchequer in North Wales, about the middle of the reign of HENRY the Eighth; and continued in those honorable.stations through the reigns of EDWARD the Sixth, and Queen MARY, and until the eighth year of Queen ELIZABETH, in great credit and authority. This appears by the letters of these three royal personages to him and John WYNNE ap MEREDITH, of GWYDIR, Esq. in whose family those letters are kept, who both jointly employed their power in apprehending felons and outlaws; of whom there was a great number in those parts during the wars betwixt the houses of York and Lancaster. When LEWIS OWEN was High Sheriff of the county of Merioneth, he had to attend Montgomery assizes, (which opportunity he embraced of treating with the Lord of Monthrey for his daughter in marriage with JOHN his eldest son) but in his return he fell among some outlaws, being several brothers called gwillied cochion, i. e. the red robbers, at a place called Dugoed, near Mowthy, and was shot through the head with an arrow. A plain cross was erected to the Baron's memory, upon the place where he was murdered, of which there are now no remains to be seen; but the gate which the assassins had made fast to obstruct his free passage, is to this day called Llidiart croes y Baron, i. e. The gate of the Baron's cross.
HENRY OWEN was bred a scholar, and having passed through his academical studies at Oxford, was, after some time, chosen minister at Stadham in that county. He was reckoned a strict puritan for his more than ordinary zeal in those early days of re
§3. JOHN was his second son, and was born at Stadham, in Oxfordshire, Anno Domini 1616. He had his school learning at Oxford, and being a boy of such extraordinary genius and parts, he made so quick a proficiency, that he was admitted into Queen's College, under the learned Dr. BARLOW, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, at about twelve years of age; and commenced Master of Arts when he was but nineteen.* He pursued his studies with incredible diligence, allowing himself, for several years, only about four hours sleep in a night (which is a clear proof of his constitutional strength, as well as thirst for literature), so that he soon had made a considerable progress in learning. His youthful recreations were chiefly of the violent kind, as leaping, throwing the bar, ringing of bells, and the like; which, though in him expressive of more than ordinary vigor, are not to be recommended for imitation, especially to candidates for the sacred ministry; for as, to most constitutions, such exertions are too violent to answer the purpose of recreation, so they are not the most decent and inoffensive to serious minds; which consideration ought, undoubtedly, to have no small influence in regulating even our recreative exercises.
formation. He married a pious woman, had several children, and, after many years of reputation and service, died in a good old age.
* Literis natus, literis innutritus, totusque deditus;
Sub. EDV. SYLVESTRO, Scholæ privatæ Oxonii moderatore,
Feliciorem adhuc studiis philosophicis,
Magno sub BARLOVIO, coll. reginalis, id tempus, socio.
These lines are taken from the Rev. Mr. T. GILBERT's larger epitaph, (for that which is entire at the close of these memoirs, was composed also by him) and for the sake of the learned reader, will be occasionally referred to when it conveys any peculiat information relative to our author's history or character.
§4. During nearly all the time he continued at college, being as yet in the days of his vanity, his whole aim and ambition was, in his indefatigable application to study, to raise himself to some eminence in church or state, to either of which he was then indifferent; and he was ready to confess after, with shame and sorrow, that then, being totally under the influence of an aspiring mind, the love of popular applause, and the desire of secular honor and preferment, the honor of God, or serving his country, otherwise than he might thereby serve himself, were most remote from his intentions. And happy were it for seminaries of learning, if these motives in pursuit of literature were less prevalent in them every day! How desirable for the interest of true religion, that the constraining love of Christ, and a concern for precious souls, reigned in the heart of every candidate for the sacred function! Then self-applause, and other sinister and base motives, that disgrace the Christian ministry, would be kept under, the love of learning and science would be duly regulated, and all the furniture acquired devoted to God, in serving the immortal interests of mankind. However, we may observe and admire the wisdom of Divine Providence, that often overrules the natural genius and inclination, as in the present case, for while our young student was actuated by no higher motive than self gratification, he was accumulating such a stock of learning and knowledge, as was afterwards consecrated to the very important and extensive service of the church of God.
$5. His father, being the youngest of fifteen brothers, and having a large family, could not afford him any considerable maintenance at the university; but he was liberally supplied by an uncle, one of his father's brothers, a gentleman of a fair estate in Wales; who having no children of his own, intended to have made
him his heir. He lived in the college until he was twenty-one years of age, from which time he met with extraordinary changes.
§6. About A. D. 1636, Dr. LAUD, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Chancellor of Oxford, imposed several superstitious rites on the university, upon pain of expulsion. But Mr. OWEN had then received such light to discover the rights of men and Christians, and to distinguish between real and spurious authority, that his conscience would not submit to those arbitrary impositions. However temporal interest might have pleaded for his compliance, yet other more weighty considerations of a religious nature prevailed; for by this time such gracious impressions were made upon his mind, as inspired him with ardent zeal for the purity of Divine worship, and greater reformation in the church. This change of judgment soon discovered itself; his former friends forsook him as one infected with puritanism; and, in short, he was become so much the object of resentment from the Laudensian party, that he was forced to leave the college. Soon after this, it is supposed, he took orders, and became chaplain to Sir ROBERT DORMER, of Ascott, in Oxfordshire, being tutor at the same time to his eldest
$7. But we must here take a more particular survey of his spiritual exercises, a scene which at first appears very dark and gloomy, but afterwards grows bright and pleasant. It may be previously remarked, that when we observe the several steps of Divine conduct towards him, through that remarkable part of his life, wherein the great and gracious change upon his soul was taking place, how he was supported and carried on through amazing steps of dejection and temptations; it might be naturally expected that he was destined in the order of Providence (as LUTHER and many others were after