We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
~ 1 John 5:18
But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:13
For many are called, but few are chosen.
~ Matthew 22:14
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
~ Luke 14:28
Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
2 Timothy 2:3
Letters of John Owen to Robert Asty. 1
I received yours by Mr B., 2 unto whom I shall commit this retume, and hope it will come safely to your hands. For although I can acknowledge nothing of what you were pleased out of your love to ascribe unto me, yet I shall be always ready to give my thoughts in the way of brotherly advice, whenever you shall stand is need of it. And at present, as things are circumstanced, I do not see how you can waive or decline the call of the church, either in confidence or reputation. For, to begin with the latter; should you doe so upon the most Christian and cogent grounds in your owne apprehensions, yet wrong interpretations will be put upon it; and as farr as it is possible we ought to keep ourselves, not only extra noxam but suspicionem also. But the point of confidence is of more moment. All things concurring, the providence of God in bringing you to that place the judgement of the church on your gifts and grace for their edification and example, the joynt consent of the body of the congregation in your call, with present circumstances of a singular opportunity for preaching the Word, I confess at this distance (I see not) how you can discharge that duty you owe to Jesus Christ (whose you are, and not your owne, and must rejoyce to be what he will have you be, be it more or less) in refusing a compliance unto these manifest indications of his pleasure. Only remember that you sit downe and count what it will cost you, which I know you will not be discouraged by. For the daily exercise of grace and learning of wisdome should not be grievous unto us, though some of their occasions may be irksome. For the latter part of your letter, I know no difference between a pastor and teacher but what follows their different gifts. 3 The office is absolutely the same in both; the power the same, the right to the administration of all ordinances every way the same: and at that great church at Boston in New England, the teacher was always the principal person; so was Mr Cotton and Mr Norton. Where gifts make a difference, there is a difference; otherwise there is none. I pray God guide you in this great affaire; and I beg your prayers for my selfe in my weak, infirme condition.
Your affectionate friend and brother, J. Owen.
March 16 (1675?)
1 Owen MS. Letters’ in New College, London. The next two letters are from the same source also. Robert Asty was a member of the Cong. Church in Coggeshall in the 1660s and married the daughter of John Sams, Owen’s successor in the church at Coggeshall. After the death of Thomas Allen, minister of the Norwich church, Asty often preached to the society. Cf. J. Browne, History of Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, 1877, pp. 252ff. John, a son of Robert Asty, wrote the Memoir of Owen in 1721.
2 This was presumably Mr Balderstone, as elder at the church at Norwich from which society Asty received the call.
3 Many seventeenth-century Congregational churches had both a pastor and teacher as well as elders and deacons. Cf. the two letters to Asty written by Thomas Goodwin in Works (1687) IV, pp. 49ff.
To Robert Asty.
I am very sorry to find that there is a difference arisen between Mr C. 1 and your selfe. Since the receipt of yours I received one from him with an account of the difference and his thoughts upon it at large. I doe not therefore judge it meet to write any thing at present about it untill I am ready to give unto you both an account of my thoughts which by reason of many avocations I cannot now doe. All that I shall therefore say at present is that without mutual love and condescension no interposition of advise will issue this business to the glory of Christ and the Gospel. I pray God guide you both by that Spirit which is promised to lead us into all truth. Upon the first opportunity you will have a further account of his sense who is,
Your affectionate brother, J. Owen
2 Jan. 1679
1 John Cromwell for whom see C.R. Asty became the teacher and Cromwell the pastor of the Norwich church after the death of Thomas Allen.