Thursday, 25 October 2007

Owen on Liturgies

This relevant piece can be found here. A preface by the editor appears there saying
It deserves attention that this pamphlet, with its humble title, “A Discourse concerning Liturgies,” etc., and printed anonymously in 1662, contains thejudgement of our author in regard to measures which gave rise to most important events in the ecclesiastical history of England. It is an argument against the liturgy, the imposition of which obliged nearly 2000 of the Church of England to resign their livings rather than sacrifice a good conscience, etc. ...
The chief merit of the following tract can only be understood in the light of these exciting events. From some expressions in it, it must have been written while the contestprevailed, and before the liturgy was actually imposed; and yet the whole argument isconducted in perfect temper, and the readers of Owen might fail to bear in mind that he is discussing a question which was stirring English society to its depths, and involved consequences unparalleled in English history. The treatise has all the weight and gravity of a judicial decision. The author, rising above petty details, expends his strength in proof that the imposition of a liturgy by civil enactment is an interference with the authority of Christ; and,unwilling to heighten the asperities of the prevailingcontroversy, he excludes from discussion the character of the English liturgy, and confines himself to the abstract question, as to the lawfulness of enforcing it on the conscience as essential to divine worship. It is the more honorable to Owen that he should have exerted himself against the imposition of the liturgy, when it is remembered that as at this time he held no living in the church, he could not suffer under the Act of Uniformity, and the measures of the Court were directed against the Presbyterians rather than the Independents. Orme remarks of this production and its subject, “The principle which these forms of human composition involve is of vast importance; and I know not where, in so small a compass, this principle is so well stated and so ably opposed as in this work.”

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