This is a follow up to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 in this blog series where I will go through the works of John Owen detailing where he has mentioned Thomas Aquinas. I hope that this series is helpful.

In this fourth part, I would like to look at the mentions of Thomas Aquinas in Volume 14 of the Banner of Truth edition of Owen’s works. This volume is titled “True and False Religion”.

As I mentioned previously, there are 20 of the 36 works which do not have any mention of Thomas Aquinas (not even in editorial footnotes). And from the other 16 books there are only 36 mentions of Thomas Aquinas. The first three parts covered 15 of those 36 mentions and this post will cover an additional 7. Including the information in this post, the 22 mentions of Aquinas only span 9 books. Counting the 20 without mentions, this is 29 of the 36 books which we will have covered by the end of this post.

This post, dealing with only quotes from “Owen’s Works, Volume 14 – True and False Religion” will be broken into several sections below. They will deal with Thomas’s promotion of image worship, Owen’s statement that Thomas has provided a guideline for the articles of faith for the Catholic Church, and a section with a few brief general mentions.

Mentions of Thomas Aquinas and his promotion of image worship

In this passage, Owen points to the fact that Thomas should be included alongside the “great champions” of the Roman Catholic Church. From the Second Council of Nicea through Trent and the moderns, Thomas and the rest of them believed what Azorius was quoted as saying below: “It is the constant judgment of divines, that the image is to be worshipped with the same honour and worship wherewith that is worshipped whose image it is.” Furthermore, Owen correctly stated that “Thomas contendeth that the cross is to be worshipped with ‘latria'”. This is nothing less than “idolatry” (latria given to idols).

Your church is fallen by idolatry, as otherwise, so in that religious veneration of images which she useth; whereunto you have added heresy, in teaching it for a doctrine of truth, and imposing the belief of it by your Tridentine determination on the consciences of the disciples of Christ. I know you would fain mince the matter, and spread over the corrupt doctrine of your church about it with “silken words,” as you do the posts that they are made of with gold, when, as the prophet speaks of your predecessors in that work, you lavish it out of the bag for that purpose. But to what purpose? Your first council, the second of Nice (which yet was not wholly yours neither, for it condemns Honorius, calls Tharasius the oecumenical patriarch, and he expounds in it the rock on which the church was built to be Christ, and not Peter); your last council, that of Trent; your angelical doctor, Thomas of Aquine; your great champions, Bellarmine and Baronius, Suarez, Vasquez, and the rest of them ; with the Catholic practice and usage of your church in all places,—declare sufficiently what is your faith, or rather misbelief, in this matter. Hence Azorius, Institut. lib. ix. cap. 6, tells us that “It is the constant judgment of divines, that the image is to be worshipped with the same honour and worship wherewith that is worshipped whose image it is.” The Nicene council, by the instigation of Pope Adrian, anathematizeth every one who doth but doubt of the adoration of images, act. 7. Thomas contendeth that the cross is to be worshipped with “latria,” p. 3, q. 25, a. 4; which is a word that he and you suppose to express religious worship of the highest sort. And your council of Trent, in their decree about this matter, confirmed the doctrine of that lestrical convention at Nice, whose frauds and impostures were never paralleled in the world but by itself.

And here is Owen reiterating this same thing.

In the meantime, the most prevalent opinion of your doctors is that of Thomas and his followers, “That images are to be adored with the same kind of worship wherewith that which they represent is to be worshipped.” And, therefore, whereas the Lord Christ is to be worshipped with ” latria,”—that which is peculiar, in yourjudgment, to God alone,—” it follows,” saith he, ” that his image is to be worshipped with the same worship also.” And as some of your learned men do boast that this indeed is the only approved opinion in this matter in your church, so the truth is, if you will speak congruously, and at any consistency with yourselves, it must be so; for whereas you lay the foundation of all your worship of them, be it of what sort it will, in that figment, that the honour which is done to the image redounds unto him whose image it is, if the honour done to the image be of an inferior sort and kind unto that which is due unto the exampler of it, by referring that honour thereunto, you debase and dishonour, it by ascribing less unto it than is its due. If, then, you intend to answer just expectation in this matter, the next time you speak of figures, pray consider what your Thomas teacheth as the doctrine of your church, 3 p. q. 25, as. 3, which Azorius says is the constant judgment of divines, lib. ix. cap. 6 as also the exposition of the Tridentine decree by Suarez, torn. i. d. 54, sect. 4 ; Yasquez, Costerus, Bellarmine, and others.

And here is another paragraph on the same topic.

Did you never read your Tridentine decrees, or the Nicene canons commended by them? is not the adoration of images asserted a hundred times expressly in it? Hath no man alive such thoughts? Are not only Thomas and Bonaventure, but Bellarmine, Gregory de Valentia, Baronius, Suarez, Vasquez, Azorius, with all the rest of your great champions, now utterly defeated, and have not one man left to be of their judgment? I would be glad to hear more of this matter. Speak plainly. Do you renounce all adoration and worship of images? is that the doctrine of your church? Prove it so, and I shall publicly acknowledge myself to have been a long time in a very great mistake.

Mention of Thomas Aquinas as a guideline for the Catholic Articles of Religion

Owen mentioned that Thomas was indeed “the best and most sober of all your school doctors” and that he had laid out 522 articles of the Catholic Religion in his Summa Theologica. This Summa was so important that Owen would say to the Catholic that “much of the religion amongst some of you lies in not dissenting from them”. It wasn’t without reason that the Council of Trent laid the Summa alongside the Bible as one of its authorities.

Lastly, The determinations of your church you make to be the next efficient cause of your unity. Now these, not being absolutely infallible, leave it, like Delos, flitting up and down in the sea of jwobabilities only. This we shall manifest unto you immediately; at least, we shall evidence that you have no cogent reasons nor stable grounds to prove your church infallible in her determinations. At present, it shall suffice to mind you that she hath determined contradictions, and that in as eminent a manner as it is possible for her to declare her sense by,—namely, by councils confirmed by popes ; and an infallible determination of contradictions is not a notion of any easy digestion in the thoughts of a man in his right wits. We confess, then, that we cannot agree with you in your rule of the unity of faith, though the thing itself we press after as our duty. For, (2.) Protestants do not conceive this unity to consist in a precise determination of all questions that are or may be raised in or about things belonging unto the faith, whether it be made by your church or any other way. Your Thomas of Aquine, who without question is the best and most sober of all your school doctors, hath in one book given us five hundred and twenty-two articles of religion, which you esteem miraculously stated: “Quot articuli, tot miracula.” All these have at least five questions, one with another, stated and determined in explication of them; which amount unto two thousand six hundred and ten conclusions in matters of religion. Now, we are far from thinking that all these determinations, or the like, belong unto the unity of faith, though much of the religion amongst some of you lies in not dissenting from them.

General Mentions of Thomas Aquinas

Here, Thomas is offered as giving another definition of what idolatry is. He is also referred to derisively as the “angelical doctor.”

Are idolatry and heresy the same? Tertullian, who, of all the old ecclesiastical writers, most enlargeth the bounds of idolatry, defines it to be ” Omnis circa omne idolum famulatus et servitus ;”—” Any worship or service performed in reference to or about any idol.” I do not remember that ever I met with your definition of idolatry in any author whatever. Bellarmine seems to place it in ” Creaturam aeque colere ac Deum;”—” To worship the creature as much or equally with the Creator:” which description of it, though it be vain and groundless (for his “seque” is neither in the Scripture nor any approved author of old required to the constituting of the worship of any creature idolatrous), yet is not this heresy neither, but that which differs from it ” toto genere.” We know it to be ” Cultus rehgiosus creaturge exhibitus,”—” Any religious worship of that which by nature is not God;” and so doth your Thomas grant it to be.But if it will follow hence that your church is guilty only of lawful idolatry, I shall not much contend about it; yet I must tell you, that as the poor woman, when the physicians in her sickness told her still that what she complained of was a good sign, cried out, “Good signs have undone me,” —your lawful idolatry, if you take not better heed, will undo you. In the meantime, as to the coincidence you imagine between idolatry and heresy, I wish you would advise with your “angelical doctor” who will show you how they are contradistinct evils; which he therefore Aveighs in his scales, and determines which is the heaviest, 22se q. 94, a. ad 4.

In this section, Owen is stating how he can produce “authentic instruments of [RCC] worship and prayers” with prayers to Thomas, among many others. Also note that he understood purgatory to be something that indulgences were used by the popes to grant time off of for those who sought them.

Instead of this, he tells us that his Catholics do not invocate saints directly when I shall undertake (what he knows can be performed) to give him a book, bigger than this of his, of prayers allowed by his church, and practised by his Catholics, made unto saints directly, for help, assistance, yea, grace, mercy, and heaven, or desiring these things for their merit, and upon their account : which, as I showed, are the two main parts of their doctrine condemned by Protestants. I can quickly send him Bonaventure’s Psalter; Prayers out of the Course of Hours of the Blessed Virgin ; Our Lady’s Antiphonies of her Sorrows, her Seven Corporeal Joys, her Seven Heavenly Joys, out of her Rosary ; Prayers to St Paul, St James, Thomas, Pancratius, George, Blase, Christopher, whom not?—all made directly to them, and that for mercies spiritual and temporal ; and tell him how many years of indulgences, yea, thousands of years, his popes have granted to the saying of some of the like stamp: and all these, not out of musty legends, and the devotion of private monks and friars, but the authentic instruments of his church’s worship and prayers.

This final citation from this work is a reference to “one of the angelical or seraphical doctors” of the Roman church who would undertake “very profound theological discourses”. The mention of an angelical doctor can only refer to Thomas.

“Nor doth it stand with his nature and deity to change, dispense, or vary the first table of his law concerning himself, as he may the second, which concerns neighbours, for want of that dominion over himself which he hath over any creature, to take away its right, to preserve or destroy it, as himself pleaseth; and therefore you conclude, that if God had commanded his people to set up no images, he could not have commanded them to set up any, because this would imply a contradiction in himself.” A very profound theological discourse, which might become one of the angelical or seraphical doctors of your church! But who, I pray, told you that there was the same reason of all the commands of the first table? Vows and oaths are a part of the worship of God prescribed in the third commandment; yet, whatever God can do, your pope takes upon himself to dispense with them every day.

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