I trouble antiquity to spare us on example more, from the many which it might afford us.

Narcissus the serviceable and admirable minister of Jerusalem, a man of such a shining sanctity, the sore eyes of envious men were offended at the brightness of it. Three of them accused him of unchastity, and swore to it with dreadful imprecations. One wished that he might be burnt if he had not spoke the truth. The second wished that he might rot alive. The third wished that he might lose his eyesight. Very few believed the accusation; yet this humble and modest servant of God withdrew upon it.

But the vengeance of God soon followed the accusers. The house of the first unaccountably took fire, and he with all his family were burnt to ashes. The second fell into a disease in which he did rot and die. The third saw this and was terrified and owned the wicked combination [conspiracy], and with the very tears of his repentance, he wept his eyes out.

Narcissus returned and became a brighter saint than ever had been in his life before.

I mention this because the authors of defamations ought to be afraid of the judgment wherewith God may vindicate his wronged children, who patiently bear all the wrongs that are done unto them, and commit themselves to him that judges righteously. (1 Pet. 2:23)

Indeed, those great men who illuminated the primitive church met with strange absurdities in the dealing of their adversaries with them. Their adversaries let them see how ready they were to catch at anything that might look defamatory upon them. Jerome[1], for instance, had written some very applauding things concerning Origen[2]. Yet afterwards wrote other things greatly condemning him.[3] Ruffin for this raised a horrid clamor against Jerome as being a man of no truth in him. Yea, Austin [Augustine] himself censured Jerome for levity and inconstancy.

It was a mistaken in them. Jerome defended himself with this fair apology: “I commend the man for his accomplishments. But I always disliked his principles. I highly valued his abilities. But I did not tie myself upon from disliking what is to be found amiss in him.” A man may be reproached as inconstant when he observes the rule of the trust consistency. ‘Tis the object and not he that changes.

Let us come down to the time of the Reformation, we shall not find this way of wickedness then reformed. Good men were still defamed wonderfully. What hideous defamations of the most excellent men in the world are the writing of such men as Tympius[4], and Cochleus[5], and Genebrard[6] stuffed withal? To such a degree of defaming did sottish [drunken] malice and madness of their adversaries carry them that tye printed stories about the tragical deaths of these excellent men, while the men were yet living! But forced it seems by writing and printing of answers to prive they were indeed alive.

None suffered more this way than the famous Luther. Whereupon Whitaker made this remark, “Felix ille, quem Dominus eo honore dignatus est, ut homines nequissimos suos haberet inimics” [which means] “There is a sort of wicked men whom it will be your enemies. You are honored if you may enjoy their enmity.”

What smutty stories did they invent and foment concerning the admirable Beza?[7] I will not mention the rest of the notoriously defamed heroes, but on the great, the sweet, dear Calvin must not be left unmentioned. France never saw a better man; yet how odious the name of Calvin? The witlings of the time (a knot of them at Bruxells particularly) laid their wits together to write atheistical pamphlets of “modest inquiry” upon him. The title was “Calvino-mastix.” They made their satires as pungent as they could. They introduced the enraged Prince of the Bottomless Pit as threating to plague the world with the most pestilent monster he could procure for the punishment of mankind. This cursed monster must be Calvin! They charged him being guilty of the villainies and forgeries which produced (as they said) his being burnt on the shoulder for a rogue. They stigmatized him for one that in treating certain possessed people had scandalously misbehaved himself. When he was dead, what a hideous character did Bolsecus[8] publish of him, which passes among the adversaries of the Reformation for a true “History of the Life and Death of Mr. Calvin”. It accuses him as being a drunkard, an epicure, a whoremaster, the worst of men; that he pretended unto certain supernatural powers of heaven, but was detected in his deceit. That he died eaten up with lice (the word phthisis [a conition of the eye] they extended into phthiriasis [an infestation of lice]) blaspheming God, invoking devils, detesting his work of Reformation, and cursing the day that ever he put pen to paper. Yea, in the English nation itself, how odious the name of Calvin? Though the true friends of the Reformation have generally concurred with Dr. Hoyl, when he said, “That great instrument of God’s glory John Calvin was a man of whom I had almost said as it was almost said of Moses, that ‘There arose not a prophet since like him in Israel’ [Deut. 34:10], nor since the Apostles’ day was before him. His works the world may admire how they could be so many, being so good, and so good being so many.”  Yet you will find a venomous Dr. Heylin, (a son of the church, who usually discovered a soul as black as the ink he wrote withal) dress him up in sambeinto’s; and at the best make but a reverend scribbler of him.

I am very much mistaken if the most reformed country in the world have no sons of Bolsecus in it.

I will no longer believe some defamations which I see published in some of the most received English histories. No, nor some that have been rashly taken up from Tory reporters, and published in the life of our Baxter[9] himself, concerning such persons as our Goodwin[10], and our Owen[11]; servants of God as unworthy to be exposed for taking wrong steps as the historian [Baxter].

And that holy man, the historian whom I now mention, might remember that he was himself accused of a criminal familiarity with a lewd woman, yea, and with killing a man in cold blood; though he was really man of as much grace & worth as most that ever the nation had.

I will tell you why I will not readily believe such stories. I have known ill men to spread stories (like themselves) of certain cheats and frauds as used by some servants of God in religious matters; when I have certainly known that the stories  have been lies and vile fiction of ill-minded men. And, I can cheerfully say, The great God knows the truth of his declaration. Yea, I have seen the remarkable judgments of God on the authors of them. But such men as Goodwin & Owen had done so much to pull down the kingdom of the Devil in the world that the Devil must by defamations take an exemplary revenge upon them. And some good men were so ill affected unto their most valuable brethren as to let themselves be therewith imposed on. And will take leaven to transcribe a passage from Owen on this occasion:

A man may have the blessing of God and curse of a professing people at the same time. Man’s condemnation and God absolution do not seldom meet upon the same person, for the same things. If you do the will of the Lord, pray think it not stange if among men curses be your reward and detestation your wages.[12]

I mention this observation by the by, because you may live to have occasion for it.

The glorious God has in this way, exercised his most faithful servants. It has been to humble them and prove [test and in so doing prove to be true] them, and to them good in the latter end: Of such defamations, I may say as Jerome concerning other calamites:

They are monitors put upon us to humble us, as when the conquerors of old rode in triumph, there was a person placed behind them in the triumphal chariot who as often as the citizens made their acclamations, whispered in the ear with an, Hominem te esse memento: Remember, Sir, you are but a man.

When servants of God have triumphed with continual serviceableness, the way of heaven has been to clap detractors upon htem, from whom in the midst of the acclamations which the obliged churches of God have bestowed upon them, they have had the most wholesome admonitions.

[1] “JEROME (ca. 347–419/420). A church father and biblical scholar who produced numerous commentaries and homilies on Scripture, historical treatises, theological essays, a vast correspondence, and other miscellaneous works. He is most noted for his translation of the Bible into Latin, later known as the Vulgate.’ Brian C. Small, “Jerome,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] “ORIGEN (Ὠριγένης, Ōrigenēs). Also known as Origen of Alexandria. A prolific and influential church father who lived ca. AD 185–254. Known for his allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture.” Justin M. Gohl, “Origen,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). And, “The details of Origen’s life were recorded by his student Gregory Thaumaturgus in a panegyric, by Eusebius in his history, and by Jerome in several references. The first two were favorable. So was Jerome at first, but he later came to disapprove of Origen’s exegesis. Yet, Jerome called him the second teacher of the church after Paul.” A. Cabaniss, “Origen (Origenes Adamantius),” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 522.

[3] Origen was later condemned as a heretic in the Fifth Ecumenical Council, “IF anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinaris, Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their impious writings, as also all other heretics already condemned and anathematized by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and by the aforesaid four Holy Synods and [if anyone does not equally anathematize] all those who have held and hold or who in their impiety persist in holding to the end the same opinion as those heretics just mentioned: let him be anathema.” Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., “The Second Council of Constantinople: The Capitula of the Council,” in The Seven Ecumenical Councils, trans. Henry R. Percival, vol. 14, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900), 314.

[4] Theology professor, University of Köln 1586-1593.

[5] I have been unable thus far to track this scoundrel down.

[6] Archbishop of Aix appointed 1591.

[7] Beza, Theodore (1519–1605), *Calvinist theologian. De Bèze (the original form of his name) came from an old Catholic family of Vézelay in Burgundy. He was educated by his tutor M. Wolmar, first at Orlèans, later at Bourges, where Wolmar became a Protestant and made his house a centre of the new religion, J. *Calvin being one of its most frequent guests. In 1534 Wolmar returned to Germany, and from 1535 to 1539 Beza studied law at Orléans with a view to embracing an ecclesiastical career. … In 1558 Calvin offered him a professorship at the newly founded academy at Geneva, a post which Beza held until 1595.” F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 199.

[8] I found this reference in Trapp’s commentary on Zechariah 13:  “God hath secret ways to waste his enemies, and to bring them on their knees when they are best underset. He can trip up their heels when they are standing upon their feet, and lay them low enough in the slimy valley where are many already like them, and more shall come after them, Job 21:31-32.  God hath a Marasmus, an evil messenger for a malicious persecutor; as he had for Antiochus Epiphanes, 1Ma 6:8-13 ; for both the Herods; for Maximiuus, the tyrant; for Philip II of Spain, Charles IX of France, Queen Mary of England, Stephen Gardiner, Archbishop Arundel, Nestorius, Arius, and other odious heretics and enemies of the Church; among whom a Lapide, the Jesuit, reckons here Calvin, and saith, That like another Herod, he died a lousy loathsome death; and for his authority thinks it enough to say, uti refert Bolsecus in eius Vita. as Bolsecus reports in his history. But it must be understood that the lives of Calvin and Beza were spitefully written by this Bolsecus, their sworn enemy, that twice banished and thrice renegade friar (liar I might have said) and physician; for those names his often changes and hard chances have given him. This man, being requested by the Popish side, and it is likely hired by them, to write thus, is in all their writings alleged as canonical.”

[9] English Preacher 1615-1691; hesitate to call him a “Puritan” due to some points of his theology. Start with the Reformed Pastor or Dying Thoughts.

[10] English Puritan, 1600-1680. Start with The Heart of Christ in Heaven.

[11] The prince of Puritan theologians, 1618-1683. Start here with J.I. Packer’s note on Owen which begins, “I owe more, I think, to John Owen than to any other theologian, ancient or modern, and I am sure I owe more to his little book on mortification than to anything else he wrote. Let me explain.” https://banneroftruth.org/us/resources/articles/2013/packer-on-owen-on-mortification/

[12] Mather has produced a slightly edited version of the quotation. In Owen’s collected works it appears as follows:

A man may have the blessing of God and the curse of a professing people at the same time. “Behold, I and the children whom God hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel,” Isa. 8:18. “Cum ab hominibus damnamur, a Deo absolvimur.”1 Man’s condemnation and God’s absolution do not seldom meet upon the same persons, for the same things. If you labour to do the work of the Lord, pray think it not strange if among men curses be your reward, and detestation your wages.

John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 8 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 140.