John Owen’s Epitaph

The greatest puritan, John Owen, is buried in Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in London. His epitaph is in Latin; here is an English translation. The reference in the final sentence is to 24 August–St. Bartholomew’s Day–a day upon which in previous years French Protestants were massacred and English Puritans were driven from the church by the Act of Uniformity.

Born in the county of Oxford: the son of an eminent divine, but more eminent himself, and justly to be ranked among the most illustrious of the age. Furnished with the aids of polite and solid learning, in a very uncommon degree, he led them all, in a well-ordered train, to the service of his great study, Christian divinity, controversial, practical, and casuistical. In each of these, he excelled others, and was ever equal to himself. In the one branch of this most sacred science, he, with powers more than Herculean, seized and vanquished the envenomed monsters, of Arminian, Socinian, and Popish errors. In the other, first experiencing in his own breast, according to the unerring rule of Scripture, the sacred energy of the Holy Spirit, he taught the whole economy of that divine influence. Rejecting lower objects, he constantly cherished and largely experienced that blissful communion with God which he so admirably described. Though a pilgrim on earth, he was next to a spirit in heaven. In Experimental Divinity, all who could have the blessings of his counsels found him as an oracle. He was a scribe every way accomplished for the kingdom of heaven. To many in private dwellings, from the pulpit to more, and from the press to all, who were aiming at the heavenly prize, he shone a pure lamp of gospel doctrine. Thus brightly shining he was gradually consumed, not unobserved by himself and his afflicted friends, till his holy soul, longing for the fuller fruition of its God, quitted the ruins of a body depressed by constant infirmities, emaciated by frequent diseases, but chiefly worn out by severe labors, and so no further suitable for the service pof God: a fabric, till thus reduced, most comely and majestic. He left the world on a day, rendered dreadful to the church by the powers of the world, but blissful to himself by the plaudit of his God, the xxiv. of August 1683, aged 67.