Owen, Thankfull (DNB00)
OWEN, THANKFULL (1620–1681), independent divine, son of Philip Owen of Taplow, Buckinghamshire, gentleman, was born in 1620, and was sent to St. Paul's school, when his father went to reside in London. He held an exhibition from St. Paul's to the university, 1637–50. He matriculated from Exeter College, Oxford, on 1 June 1636, graduated B.A. on 16 Jan. 1639–40, was elected fellow of Lincoln College in 1642, and proceeded M.A. July 1646. He was ‘remarkably preserued in his youth as he was swimming near Oxford, after he had sunk twice under water’ (Calamy, Nonconformist's Memorial, i. 181). He came into prominence on the appointment of the parliamentary ‘Commission to reform and regulate the University’ in 1647. On 30 Sept. he was appointed by Lincoln College one of the delegates to the visitors. On 11 May 1648 he appeared before the visitors and submitted ‘to the authority of parliament in this visitation.’ On 19 May he was appointed by the proctors one of the twenty delegates, of whom the majority, or at least ten, were to consider and answer in the name of the university all inquiries pertaining to the government of the university. On 5 July he was placed by the visitors on a ‘committee for the examination of all such as are candidates for any fellowship, scholarship, or other place in this universitie.’ On 13 March 1649 he was appointed senior proctor for the university. In October he was made one of the sub-delegates ‘qui animadversiones suas (e corpore statutorum Universitatis) referrent si quæ superstitiosam pravitatem referrent’ (Wood, Life, ed. Clark). In the next year he was added to the preachers before the university as one of the representatives of the independent party which had now come into power. On 6 Sept. 1650, at the committee for the reformation of the universities, he was appointed president of St. John's College, on the resignation of Francis Cheynell [q. v.], who would not accept the ‘engagement.’ The ‘ten seniors’ of the college consented. His first signature as president occurs on 18 Dec. His management of the college property was far from satisfactory; during his tenure of office much of the college estates was assigned on leases of lives to his friends and relations. On 15 June 1652 a new committee was appointed by parliament, of which Owen was a member. It first sat on 20 June 1653, and Owen was constant in his attendance. He was a member also of the new body of visitors appointed by Cromwell on 2 Sept. 1654, and attended its meetings till the end; he was, moreover, a member of the committee on scandalous ministers.
As one of the most important of the independent party in Oxford, and as having been actively concerned in all the most obnoxious proceedings of the parliamentary authorities in the changes in university discipline, direction, and patronage, it was clear that Owen could not be permitted to retain his post after the Restoration. He was ejected by the commissioners in 1660, his last signature in the college register being on 19 July 1660. He lived privately in London, and did not conform. On the death of Dr. Thomas Goodwin [q. v.], pastor of the independent congregation in Fetter Lane, London, he was chosen to succeed him, but died suddenly within a fortnight, on 1 April 1681, at his house in Hatton Garden. He was buried in Bunhill Fields.
When Dr. John Owen (1616–1683) [q. v.] gave notice of Thankfull Owen's funeral, he said ‘that he had not left his fellow behind him for learning, religion, and good humour.’ ‘He was a man,’ says Calamy (i. 181), ‘of genteel learning and an excellent temper; admired for an uncommon fluency and easiness in his composures and for the peculiar purity of his Latin style.’
The following work is attributed to him: ‘A true and lively Representation of Popery, showing that Popery is only New modell'd Paganism and perfectly destructive of the great Ends and Purposes of God in the Gospel,’ London, printed by R. Everingham for W. Kettilby, at the Bishop's Head in St. Paul's Churchyard, 1679. It is a pamphlet of eighty-one octavo pages, charging the Roman church with idolatry, attacking indulgences, and taking objection especially to three points of ultramontane theology: ‘(1) the doctrine of the direction of the intention; (2) the doctrine of probability; (3) that of sacerdotal absolution upon confession at the hour of death.' He quotes Chillingworth with approbation. He had intended to amplify his work under the title 'Imago Imaginis,' in which he was to have shown 'that Rome papal was an image of Rome pagan.' The catalogue of his books, with those of Ralph Button, 'to be sold by auction by John Dunmore in Ivy Lane, on 7 Nov. 1681,' is extant.
[St. John's College MSS. ; Calamy's Nonconformist's Memorial, ed. Palmer ; Wood's Life, ed. A. Clark (Oxf. Hist. Soc.) ; Gardiner's Register of St. Paul's School ; Foster's Alumni Oxon. ; Burrows's Register of the Visitors of the University of Oxford, 1647–58 (Camden Society).]