OWEN, JOHN, D.D. (1616–1683), theologian, of an old Welsh family, was second son of the Rev. Henry Owen, vicar of Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, where he was born in 1616. He matriculated at Queen's College, Oxford (having been previously at a school in the town kept by Edward Sylvester), on 4 Nov. 1631, graduated B.A. on 11 June 1632, proceeded M.A. on 27 April 1635, and was created D.D. on 23 Dec. 1653. As an undergraduate he read prodigiously, and relaxed his mind with flute-playing and athletics. Dr. Thomas Wilson [q. v.] was his music-master, and his tutor Dr. Thomas Barlow [q. v.], whose friendship he retained throughout life. He studied with equal zest classics, mathematics, philosophy, theology, Hebrew, and rabbinical lore. In 1637 he left the university rather than submit to Laud's new statutes, and, being already in holy orders, became chaplain to Sir Robert Dormer of Ascott, Oxfordshire. He was afterwards chaplain to John, lord Lovelace at Hurley, Berkshire. On the outbreak of the civil war he removed to Charterhouse Yard, London, where he obtained relief from severe spiritual distress, from which he had long suffered, and published two tracts: ‘Θεομαχία ἀυτεξουσιαστικὴ, or a Display of Arminianism, being a Discovery of the old Pelagian Idol, Freewill, with the new Goddess Contingency,’ 1643, 4to; and ‘The Duty of Pastors and People Distinguished, or a Brief Discourse touching the Administration of Things commanded in Religion,’ 1643, 4to. The former, a trenchant polemic against Arminianism, got him preferment to the sequestered rectory of Fordham, Essex; from the latter it appears that he then held the presbyterian theory of church government, which, however, he changed for independency upon a more thorough investigation of the history of the primitive church. The transition was already effected in 1646 (cf. his first sermon preached before parliament, ‘A Vision of unchangeable free Mercy, &c., whereunto is annexed a short Defensative about Church Government,’ &c. London, 1646, 4to).
About this time, on the death of the true incumbent, Owen was ejected from the Fordham living by the patron; but, having taken the covenant, was instituted by order of the House of Lords, on the recommendation of the Earl of Warwick, to the neighbouring vicarage of Coggeshall (Lords' Journals, viii. 467). Here he modelled his church entirely on congregational principles, of which he published an exposition, entitled ‘Eshcol; or Rules of Direction for the Walking of the Saints in Fellowship,’ London, 1648, 12mo. The same year he resumed his polemic against Arminianism by the publication of ‘Salus Electorum Sanguis Jesu; or the Death of Death in the Death of Christ’ (London, 4to). The antinomian tendency of this work elicited protests from both Richard Baxter and John Horne [q. v.] (cf. Baxter. Aphorisms of Justification, Appendix; and Owen's rejoinder Of the Death of Christ, the Price He paid, and the Purchase He made, &c., London, 1650).
On the surrender of Colchester to Sir Thomas Fairfax, 27 Aug. 1648, Owen, at his request, preached two thanksgiving sermons—one at Colchester, the other at Romford. Both were printed under the title ‘Ebenezer: a Memorial of the Deliverance of Essex, County and Committee,’ &c., London, 1648, 4to. He preached before parliament on the day following the execution of the king, but made only the most distant allusion to that event. The sermon was printed shortly after its delivery, together with a brief defence of the right of private judgment, entitled ‘A Discourse about Toleration and the Duty of the Civill Magistrate’ (London, 1649, 4to). ‘Oὐρανῶv Oὐράνια,’ another of his sermons before parliament, preached on 19 April following, and published the same year (London, 4to), led to his acquaintance being sought by Cromwell, whom he attended as chaplain in Ireland. His sermon on the spiritual state of that country, preached before parliament on 28 Feb. 1649–50, occasioned the passing of an ordinance for the re-endowment of Trinity College, Dublin, and the establishment there of six salaried parliamentary preachers. On 8 March 1649–50 Owen was appointed preacher to the council of state. In the autumn he attended Cromwell in Scotland, and, having taken the engagement, was intruded into the deanery of Christ Church, Oxford, on 18 March 1650–1, in the room of Edward Reynolds [q. v.], being about the same time appointed preacher at St. Mary's. On 24 Oct. 1651 he preached before parliament the thanksgiving sermon for the victory of Worcester; on 6 Feb. 1651–2 Ireton's funeral sermon. At Oxford offices were accumulated upon him. On 15 June 1652 Cromwell, then chancellor of the university, placed him on the board of visitors, on 9 Sept. following nominated him vice-chancellor, and on 16 Oct. put the chancellorship in commission and made him first commissioner. About the same time he was placed on the commission for licensing translations of the Bible, and on 20 March 1653–4 on that for approving public preachers. On 27 June following he was returned to par-