Occasional Conformity: The Congregationalism Of Henry Jacob And John Owen -- By: Michael G. Brown

Journal: Reformed Baptist Theological Review
Volume: RBTR 06:1 (Jan 2009)
Article: Occasional Conformity: The Congregationalism Of Henry Jacob And John Owen
Author: Michael G. Brown

Occasional Conformity: The Congregationalism Of Henry Jacob And John Owen

Michael G. Brown

Michael G. Brown, M.A., M.Div., is Pastor of Christ United Reformed Church, Santee, CA. This article points to some foundational trajectories in Reformed Baptist confessional ecclesiology. Henry Jacob is important as the first minister of the ‘Mother Church’ of the Particular Baptists, the Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey church. His writings demonstrate the fundamental principles worked out in that church and provide hints for their further development when the Particular Baptists emerged in the 1630s. One hardly needs mention the enormous importance of John Owen. His contribution to our own ecclesiological identity is almost self-evident. I commend this work to your study. Prof. James Renihan.

In recent decades, interest in the life and theology of John Owen (1616-83) has increased substantially. Although he is not as well known as the sixteenth-century Reformer John Calvin (1509-64) or the eighteenth-century Protestant thinker Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), he has become the subject of a growing number of published studies and academic dissertations.1 This is fitting, given the fact that Owen was one of the most significant theological figures in England during the Seventeenth Century. As Carl Trueman has put it, “In his own day he was chaplain to Cromwell, preacher to Parliament, Chancellor of Oxford University, leading light of the Independents, and the pre-eminent Puritan theologian. By any standard one of the most influential men of his generation.”2

One area of Owen’s theology that needs further research, however, is his ecclesiology. Few studies are devoted to it.3 That Owen was a Congregationalist in polity is widely known today, as well as the fact that he arrived at this conviction largely through reading The Keyes of the

Kingdom of Heaven (1644) by John Cotton (1584-1652). Yet, little has been done to recognize the roots of Owen’s Congregationalism in the thought of Henry Jacob (1563-1624). The purpose of this article, therefore, is to pursue the question of how Jacob’s Congregationalism developed in England during the Seventeenth Century. It’s thesis is that the ecclesiological polity of Owen ultimately had its roots in the thought of Henry Jacob. In order to substantiate this thesis, we will examine the Congregationalism of these two thinkers.

The Congregationalism Of Henry Jacob

Drawing upon the study of B. R. White, Michael Watts shows that English Nonco...

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