No doubt the modern reader will get side tracked by Owen’s polemics against the Roman Catholic Church, however I would encourage you not to get side tracked! Rather, where Owen goes after the R.C., perhaps put yourself under his penetrating critique. Where have you replaced the “gold shield” with a “bronze shield”? Where are you called to repent and embrace God’s gospel in the following paragraphs? As for me, I see there is much spiritual work that needs to be done in my life. I unfortunately have too many bronze shields!
When the power of godliness is lost, men resort to outward appearance in a vain attempt to give credence to their existence. When Shishak, King of Egypt, came up against Jerusalem and took away the gold shields which Solomon had made, King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place (I Kings 14.25-27).
In the same way, when the majority of members in the Church of Rome lost and denied the power of the gold shields of faith, love, peace, holiness, conformity to Christ, self-denial and all principles of heavenly behaviour, having lost and despised all the true glory of Christianity, she set up in their place bronze shields, which are only a form or image of that glory. With this for or image, Rome is content, and by this form and image she attempts to decieve others into believing that she alone is the true church of Christ on earth.
Instead of the gold shield of mystical, spiritual union with Christ which truly unites Christians, and which Christ prayed for and purchased by his blood, Rome has set up the bronze shield of professed subjection to the pope as the only true unity in the church.
Instead of the gold shield of that heavenly love for one another in Christ and for his sake by which grace Christ renews the souls of believers, Rome has set up the bronze shield of profession of outward works of charity and generosity, measured and valued by rewards which the church of Rome gives in return for these works done for her benefit adn worldy enrichment and advancement.
Instead of the gold shiled of the Spirit’s effective works of grace in the soul, Rome has set up the bronze shield of outward man-made ordinances.
The gold shield of regeneration becomes the bronze shield of baptism. The gold shield of growth in grace becomes the bronze shield of episcopal confirmation. The gold shield of application by faith of the blood of Christ once offered in that holy sacrifice for us is replaced by the worthless bronze shield of the daily sacrifice of the mass offered for the sins of the living and the dead. The gold shield of spiritual mortification of sin is replaced by the bronze shield of penances and severe, painful, bodily punishments. In the place of the gold shield of the Spirit of grace and supplication ruling in worship are set up the bronze shields of man-made liturgies invented and composed by they know not whom.
John Owen, Apostasy from the Gospel (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust 2002) pg 40-41