The Unsuccessful Call of John Owen
This letter was received by John Owen in 1663 from a congregation in Boston that wished him to come and be their pastor. In a day when churches are driven by public relationships methods, boasting of their many attractive qualities in their efforts to recruit both members and pastors, their humility is exceedingly refreshing. Owen chose not to come, but was deeply moved by their words and kept this letter in his records.
It hath pleased the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, who giveth no account of his matters, to take unto himself, that pious and eminent minister of the gospel, Mr. John Norton, late teacher of the Church of Christ in Boston, whose praise is in all the Churches; the suitable and happy repair of which breach is of great concernment, not only to that Church, but to the whole country. Now, although most of us are strangers to you, yet having seen your labours, and heard of the grace and wisdom communicated to you from the Father of lights; we thought meet to write these, to second the call and invitation of that church unto yourself, to come over and help us; assuring you it will be very acceptable to this Court, and we hope to the whole country, if the Lord shall direct your way hither, and make your journey prosperous to us. We confess the condition of this wilderness doth present little that is attractive, as to outward things; neither are we unmindful, that the undertaking is great, and trials many that accompany it; the persons that call you, are unworthy sinful men, of much infirmity, and may possibly fall short of your expectation (considering the long and liberal day of grace afforded us); yet, as Abraham and Moses, being called of God, by faith forsook their country and the pleasures thereof, and followed the Lord, the one not knowing whither he went, the other to suffer affliction with, and bear the manners of the people of God in the wilderness: and God was with them and honoured them: so we desire that the Lord would clear your call, and give you his presence. You may please to consider those that give you this call, as your brethren and companions in tribulation; and are in this wilderness for the faith and testimony of Jesus, and that we yet enjoy, through the distinguishing favour of God, the pleasant things of Zion in peace and liberty. And while the Lord shall see meet to entrust us with this mercy, we hope no due care will be found wanting in the Government here established, to encourage and cherish the churches of Christ, and the Lord’s faithful-labourers in his vineyard. Thus praying to the God of the spirits of all flesh, to set a man over this congregation of the Lord, that may go in and out before them, and make your call clear, and voyage successful to us; that if the Lord shall vouchsafe to us such a favour, you may come to us in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ; with our very kind love and respect,
We remain, your very loving friends,
in the name, and by appointment of the General Court, sitting at Boston, in New England, the 20th October, 1663.
~ Found in The Works of John Owen, vol. 1