James Wayland Joyce.

England's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic online

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Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 76 of 83)
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men, as abhorring the whole scheme ; and if any well-affected
member " did ' name an orthodox and well-reputed divine "" he
was not admitted, as it was considered a sufficient argument
for his exclusion that he had been named by a person in
whom the parliament had no confidence.

The consequence, as may well be imagined, was that "a
veryj few reverend and worthy men were inserted." , Among
such, however, may be reckoned Archbishop ^ Usher, West-
field, bishop of Bristol, Brownrigg, bishop of Exeter, Nichol-
son, afterwards bishop of Gloucester, Sanderson, Hammond,
and Dr. Featley. But though these persons were nominated
it would have been useless for them under any circumstances
to have given their attendance, the numerous ' Genevan cloaks
testifying to the sentiments of the majority ; for there were
not above twenty"* persons in the whole Assembly who
would have supported episcopalian principles, the rest being
"avowed" enemies to the doctrine or discipline of the
Church of England." The Bishop of Bristol, Westfield,
was, indeed, present at the opening of the sittings, but the
king having issued a proclamation against the whole pro-

A.D. 1643.
K. Chas. I.

fColl. viii.
257, and
Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 55.

g Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.

h Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.

' Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.

J Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.
k Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, pp. 55,

' Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 55.
™ Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.

n Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.




A. D. 1643.

Lauil, John

o Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 56.
P Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 63.
<5 1 Kings
xviii. 44.

f Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 66.

» Claren-
don's Hist.
Reb. ii. 530.

I Coll. viii

>■ Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, i>. 54.

" Coll. viii.

ceeding, all the episcopalian party retired as soon as this fact
became known.

The remaining members of this Assembly were divided into
three parties. 1. Presbyterians", who now boasted a ma-
jority ; 2. Independents p, who, though at present a small
section, were, it has been observed, like that " little cloud out
of the sea like a man's hand*!," which the prophet's servant saw
already threatening, but big with rain and wind, and destined
ere long to burst and sweep all before it, including presbytery
itself, in the common wreck ; 3. Erastians"^, (so called from one
Erastus or Lieben a physician of Heidelberg,) men who con-
fuse the earthly powers of civil government with those spiritual
powers which Christ confided to his Church on the (ialilaian
mount. Of such a philosophy unhappily the disciples' names
even in our own days are legion.

Such were the materials of which this Assembly was com-
posed. Nor were the characters of many of the members
likely to recommend their principles, if the testimony of Lord
Clarendon may be received, who says that they were "some*
of them infamous in their lives and conversations, and most
of them of very mean parts in learning, if not of scandalous
ignorance, and of no other reputation than of malice to the
Church of England ; so that that convention hath not since
produced any thing that might not then reasonably have been
expected from it."

Not only as regarded * the constitution of the Westminster
Assembly did the parliament assert plenary jurisdiction, but
the work to be done and the limits within which that meeting
was to confine itself were precisely defined by the same autho-
rity. The parliament enjoined attendance" on the members
of the Assembly; declared that its sittings should be re-
moved from place to place according to parliamentary direc-
tion ; charged the members to treat of such matters as the
houses of parliament should propose, and of no others, to
deliver opinions as either house required, and not to divulge
any thing by printing, writing, or otherwise, without their
consent. The parliament moreover appointed *' the chairman,
one Dr. Twisse ; provided that any cases of disagreement
should be referred to itself as to a court of ultimate appeal ;
undertook to pay the Assembly-men four shillings a day at




the charges of the commonwealth; gave all members an immu-
nity from penalties attaching to non-residence ; provided for
the substitution, by parliamentary appointment, of new ones
in cases of vacancy by death ; forbade the Assembly
"to assume"' any jurisdiction, power, or authority eccle-
siastical or otherwise, except what was herein (i.e. the ordi-
nance) expressed ; and lastly declared that the body might
be finally dissolved whenever the parliament should see fit.
These were provisions which would evidently warrant the
exercise of the highest strains of power upon the part of
parliament, whenever it chose to exercise them. Absolute
controul was the object which the parliament intended to
attain, and that object was thus carefully secured. It paraded
its child before the nation in the form of a man, but it
slackened not for a moment the reins of parental authority.
It affected to set in motion a machine for tlie advancement
of religion, but it held all appliances of motive power and
the breaks too in its own hand. Religion in the parlia-
mentary establishment was indeed degraded to the office of
a busy handmaiden in the work of rebellion ; but the master,
being somewhat tyrannical in his management, would fain
exercise on all occasions the meanest interference, and ever
pry with ridiculous curiosity into the most trivial proceedings
of his domestic household.

When the so called^ divines, in pursuance of the ordinance,
met in K. Henry VII.'s chapel, Westminster, on the 1st of
July, 1643, Dr. Twisse, their chairman, preached the sermon;
and both houses of parliament attended. The ordinance for
the Assembly was then read, the names of members called
over, and actuaries appointed in the persons of Henry Row-
borough and Adoniram Byfield. Thus placed in a position for
business, as was supposed, this meeting appears to have stood
well in the affections of some, for the city preachers prayed
for a blessing upon its debates, and, moreover, books were dedi-
cated to it under the name of the " most sacred Assembly,''"'

Their address ^J ^"^7 ^^^^ 19th >" this singular company had
to the parliament, prepared a petition to its common parents,
the two houses of parliament. The Assembly begins its
address by bemoaning in mysterious terms the two late
defeats which had befallen Waller's troops in the west and

A.D. 1643.
K. Clias. I.

*' Hist, of
r.aier Puri-
tans, p. 55.

■-'Coll. vili.
257. Comp.
Hist. iii.

y Comp.
Hist. iii.
146. Col
viii. 256.





A.D. Ifi43.
Land, John

Art. 1.

Alt. 2.

Alt. ?,.
Art. 4.

f Art. 6.
e Art. 7.
hArt. 8.
' Art. .0.
J Art. 10.

^ Coll. viii.
p. 2fi(».

Lord Fairfax''s in the north. On this account it humbly
petitions the Hou!3es of Lords and Commons, 1st, to proclaim
a fast and make provision for some peculiar expressions of
repentance towards God on the part of persons residing within
the bills of mortality; and, 2ndly, to take order for "setting
up Christ more gloriously in all his ordinances within this
kingdom, and reforming all things amiss throughout the land
wherein God is more specially and more immediately dis-
honoured."" Thus we see that these new authorities in reli-
gion treated the two houses of parliament as a national synod,
and referred to those assemblies in the last resort as the arbi-
ters of divine worship and the sources of spiritual jurisdic-

That the parliament might be the more readily inclined to
exercise such synodical functions the Westminster Assembly-
men made some very tragical complaints of the state of reli-
gion in the country. They desired remedies to be applied to
the "brutish ignorance and palpable^ darkness of the people;"
lamented the " heinous pollution ^ of the Lord's supper ;" the
" bold venting ^' of corrupt doctrines ;" the " profanation •= of
the Lord's day and the days of solemn fasting;" the existence
of "blind guides'' and scandalous ministers;"" — by which ex-
pressions the clergy of the English Church were meant — and
so "their wisdoms"" of the parliament were requested "to
find out some way to admit ^ into the ministry such godly and
hopeful men as have prepared themselves and are willing
thereunto."" AMiether the parliament was to assume the
function of ordination is not specified, but this last item has
at least a doubtful and dark appearance.

The Westminster Assembly further proceeded in its petition
to request that severe measures against " swearing ^, drunken-
ness, fornication^, adultery, and incest "" may be taken ; that all
traces of " idolatry'' and superstition," and specially all remains
of popery, may be removed ; that "justice ' may be executed;""
and that the " prisoners^ "'"' of the rebel party may be liberated.
And then the document concludes in these words : " That
so God ^, who is now by the sword avenging the quarrel of
his covenant, beholding your integrity and zeal, may turn
from the fierceness of his wrath, hear our prayers, go forth
with our armies, perfect the work of reformation, forgive our




sins, and settle truth and peace throughout the kingdom.
And your petitioners shall ever pray, fcc."

The parliament Some of the crimes specified in the foregoing
cdvir^'tiie ad- address as calling for severe punishment are
diess. shocking in very high degree, and, doubtless, if

the case was truly stated, there was much need of reformation
in the particulars detailed. But considering the state of those
times, the omission of some other crimes from the Assembly's
catalogue of offences has an odd aspect. Heresy, schism, trea-
son, rebellion, and murder in the moral system of these divines
seem to be left out of the category of human sins. However,
notwithstanding these remarkable omissions, the petition was
well received by the parliament, for that body appointed a fast
on the Friday next ensuing, in accordance with the Assembly's
request, and also promised early attention to the other items.
And makes 01- In accordaucc ' with this promise, and in
deis accordingly, ^nswer to the eighth item, an ordinance was
made on August 28, "for the utter demolishing and removing
all monuments of superstition or idolatry, as altars and tables
set altarwise, and all rails about them, tapers, candlesticks,
crosses, images, pictures, and superstitious inscriptions." In
answer to the fifth item the commons made an order Sept. 5,
that " scandalous ministers " — meaning the English clergy —
" should be proceeded against, and such as abetted the forces
raised against the parliament." In due course most of the other
requests in the Assembly's petition were suitably answered.

One of the main objects of the Westminster
Assembly was to prepare the minds of the people
for an assent to the solemn league and cove-
nant ; and the details of that instrument having
been agreed on between the English and Scotch
rebels, the machinery was ready for work in the
autumn of 1643. And now, as it was hoped that their joint
performances would pass with an easy motion, the Assembly,
in company with its parent ™ the parliament, met on the 25tli
of September in the church of S. JNIargaret, Westminster,
and in a formal manner gave in their common adhesion to the
" solemn league and covenant." The feelings of the congre-
gation were first worked upon by prayers and speeches. The
proceedings began with special supplications for the occasion,

A. D. 1643.
K. Chas. I.

The parliament
and the Assem-
bly swear to the
" solemn league
and covenant"
in S. Margaret's
Church, West-

' Comii.
Mist. iii.

'" t'onip.
Hist. iii.
147. Coll.
viii. 26.




A.D. 1643.

Laud, John

n Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 74.

Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, pp. 79,

P Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, pp. 79,

1 Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 71.

which, as is too well known, instead of representing the sincere
outpourings of the human soul towards the heavenly mercy-seat,
have often been prostituted, in times of intestine commotions,
so as to reflect the political hopes and fears of the composers ;
and in times of peace are not unfrcquently made vehicles for
conveying to the hearers an exposition of the past, present, or
future policy of the civil rulers of the day. Mr. White prayed
for a whole hour that God would sanctify them for their good
work. J\lr. Nye, a presbyterian, laboured for another hour in
the pulpit dilating on the advantages of the league, and endea-
vouring to support his statements with misapplications of
scripture. Mr. Henderson, a Scotchman, followed in a like
strain, arguing from the blessing which had attended cove-
nants among the Scots that the English ought to imitate their
example. After he had concluded Mr. Nye again stood
up. The pulpit served him for a rostrum, whence he read
aloud the solemn league and covenant, making a pause at the
close" of each article, that the statements contained in it
might fall with due weight upon the ears of the audience.
Then uprose the whole congregation, and, with right hands
lifted towards heaven, swore in the name of God to accept
and maintain the covenant, which was subscribed both by the
members of the parliament and of the ^^'estminster Assembly.
This document consi.sted of six articles, which, in fact,
amounted to the renunciation for ever, with all the solemnity
which an abjuration could give, of the doctrine and discipline of
the Church of England, and to the acceptance of presbyterianism
in its place. To conclude the performances of the day prayer
and praise were offered by Mr. Gouge, a puritan minister, who
from the pulpit begged a blessing on the proceedings.

The lahours of The labours of the Assembly, which in some
the Assembly. form or other lasted ° six years, and numbered
1163 sittings, resulted in — " a'' confession of faith — a directory
for pubhc worship — a larger catechism — and a lesser one for
children," — ultra-Calvinism being the fundamental princi])le of
all these productions. It also essayed i, by the command of the
parliament, to revise the articles of the Church of I'^ngland.
Ten weeks were consumed in making some few altera tion.s,
chiefly verbal ones in the first fifteen, but that work was not
further proceeded with.




The Assembly ^^ 1649 the Assembly lost some of the cireum-
*'*^'^''"'^*- stantial pomp of appeai-ance with which the par-

liament at first proposed to invest it, being changed into a
committee for the trial of ministers. It ^ sat weekly for the
purpose ; and if the queries proposed by Mr, Nye, Tombes,
and Peters, on the occasion of trying Mr. Sadler's principles
at a subsequent period, may be looked upon as specimens of
the questions generally proposed to candidates, we may infer
that a severe tax was laid upon the ingenuity of those persons
who had to give answer. For example^ : " Whether God was
willing or unwilling that Adam should fall ? Whether motions
to sin before consent are sinful ? What is the breath of the
soul ? the heat of the soul ? and the action of the soul ?" These
are questions which would be apt, one would think, to over-
set the most laborious divine, and gravel the acutest philo-

The Assembly, nurtured under the fostering care of parlia-
ment, was early doomed, as might be expected, to experience
the managements proverbial to stepmothers. The parlia-
mentary tender mercies were indeed cruel. As* soon as the
Assembly claimed ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and assumed for
the presbyterian courts the power and right of excommunica-
tion, the parliament checked, insisting upon appeal to itself,
even in cases of exclusion from the Lord's supper ; and when
the Assembly remonstrated, the members were informed that
they had violated privilege, and incurred the penalties of
praemunire. The parliament further invested itself with tlie
office of trier of the Assembly, and " propounded to it some
questions touching the presbyterian system, which if answered
in one way would entail the mystic terrors of a praemunire,
but if replied to in another, would lead to the abandonment
of all spiritual jurisdiction into the hands of the civil power.
And now, though the astonished Assembly answered in
some general terms, endeavouring to avoid tlie thrust of
either horn of this menacing dilemma, it was not permitted to
retain the powers it challenged. There were, it may be re-
membered, within it some members of parliament. Among
these were Selden, Bulstrode, Whitelocke, and St. John,
solicitor-general ; and as these gentlemen belonged to the
Erastian party, the spiritual authority claimed by the Assem-

r Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 79.

s Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 383.

' Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 14C.

J Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 147.




A.D. 1649.


See of Cant.




V See Hist,
of Later
p. 07.

^ Comp.
Hist. iii.

A.D. 1653.

" Comp.
Hist. iii.
i'()7. Hume
fiiap. Ix. an.

bly was ridiculed, even among those of its own household.
" " Selden visits thera," says an author of that day, " as the
Persians used to see wild asses fight. When the commons
have tired him with their new law, these brethren refresh him
with their mad gospel. To speak truth, this assembly is the
two houses' attiring room, where the lords and commons put
on their vizards and masks of religion." Masks, indeed,
which might then have imposed upon the childish credulity
of ignorant fanatics ; but certainly the flimsy material and
transparent tinsel, of which they were composed, have failed
to deceive any body since.

The divines of The theology of the newly constituted divines
Iknderly Tamhh- ^as HO Sufficient amioury for supplying weapons
cd with learning, gf defence, evcu against the lay members of the
Assembly itself. Some of them failed remarkably in a know-
ledge of the original languages of the Bible, so that, as must
needs be the case in such a contingency, they frequently
lay under an incapacity of supporting their arguments by
scriptural proof. Taking them at this disadvantage, Mr.
Selden made himself conspicuous in disabling their essays in
divinity. Sometimes when they cited a text to prove some
rambling assertion he would tell them, " perhaps " in your
little pocket bibles with gilt leaves (which they would often
pull out and read) the translation may be thus, but the Greek
or the Hebrew signifies thus," and so he totally silenced them
and exposed their ignorance.

The Assembly "^^"'^ silcncing of the divinity of the divines,
^'"''^- the witty sallies of the lay members against

those of more solemn face, and, finally, the formidable on-
slaught of parliamentary force, crushed the whole meeting. It
dragged on a feeble existence for a time, and at last, when
" the fool's bauble " of the long parliament * was ordered out
of the house by Oliver Cromwell, in April 1653, and its
sittings were forbidden, the Westminster Assembly departed
from life simultaneously with the parent which begat it.

The Church of England had no mercy shewn

to her either by the parliament or the Assembly.

Of the principles of the latter the proceedings

previously detailed as having occurred in S.

Maro-aret's clun-ch, Westminster, are a suffi-

VI. Toudir
merries of the
parliament and
the Assembly to-
wards the Churcli
of England.




cient exposition. In order to carry out those principles the
parHament was ready to give powerful aid so long as its own
superior jurisdiction was unchallenged. This parliament had,
moreover, a peculiar way of dealing out distributive justice.
It voted " liberty y to tender consciences by way of indul-
gence ;" and within two days, upon mature consideration of
the extent of this concession, added a proviso, " that ^ the in-
dulgence as to tender consciences shall not extend to the
Book of Common ^ Prayer." Here is in effect contained much
the same principle as that which prevails in the present day
in reference to some ecclesiastical questions : a very high
degree of respect being paid to the conscientious scruples of
all men save the clergy whom the matter in hand specially
concerns. In fine, this parliament forbade the use of the
Common Prayer Book altogether. Not only was it punish-
able to make use of it in a church, but if any person should
read it in any private house or family within this kingdom of
England, penalties were imposed amounting to five ^ pounds
for the first offence, ten pounds for the second, and for the
third one year's imprisonment without bail or mainprize.
Such was the hatred towards the Church of England of that
parliament which, from the ridiculous spectacle it exhibited
to the world towards its latter end, has obtained a contempt-
uous appellation, to which it moreover earned a just title,
from the absurdity of those fundamental principles upon which
its disgraceful acts were based.

England was now deprived by rebellious
queiit state of re- arms not Only of her king and her ancient con-
'^'°°' stitution, but of her visible Church. That

whole fabric was beaten down ; the provincial synods were
silenced ; and religion was left to seek support and direction
from the essays of political hypocrites, or at best from the
more sincere, but not less ignorant, declamations of unlettered
fanatics. The rebel army •= supplied self-elected professors of
divinity, who made some remarkable discoveries in that branch
of learning. Camp and synod seem to have become convertible
terms, though one would incline to think that lessons in peace
and brotherly love would be inefficiently inculcated at the
point of the sword ; and that exhortations to the forgiveness
of injuries and the exercise of Christian charity would not

A. D. 1653.
K. Chas. II.

y Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 151

- Hist.
Later i
tans, p





b Hist, of
Later Puri-
tans, p. 1 49.

<: Sec Coll.
viii. 374,




A.D. 1653.
See of Cant,
See of York

d Virg.
Culex, 254
— 2ob".

<1J M. Ann.


Pilars, lib. i.


A.D. 16C0.

'^ Vidtc
Hvnin. .\.\.\.
f Coinj).
Hist. iii.
B Conii).

Hist. iii.


'■ C'ouii).
Ili.t. iii.
247, an.l
Coll. viii.

receive any peculiar recommendation from the examples of

hands reeking witli fratricidal blood.

" Jam truculenta ferunt infcstaque volncra corpus
Alter in altcrius ; jamque aversatur uterque,
Impia germani manat quod sanguine de.xtra <l."

But happily the atrocious barbarities of that time may be
omitted from our present consideration ; and we shall pass on
to subjects lying more properly within our particular purpose.
Only it must be remarked as this nation then succumbed to
the spiritual jurisdiction of the barracks, and was illuminated
by the theology of guard-rooms, that the generation educated
under such an hierarchy subsequently produced, as might have
been expected, during the licentious reign of K, Charles II.
a harvest whose fruits may be regarded with shame, but not
with wonder —

". . . . alta sedent civilis vulnera dextrae tl''."

,,„^ „ Upon the return of K. Charles II. from exile

VIII. Rcstora- ^ . .

tion of K.Charles to his rightful inheritance, and of this nation
from frenzy to reason, in the year 16G0, our
constitution both in Church and State was restored with
marvellous rapidity. The poefs desire was here suddenly
realized, —

" Civibus o tandem lucem da ccrnerc nostris,
Et populis redeat vetus in praecordia virtus.
Inter se positis ultro civilibus arinis
Pacem agitent, unaquc velint occurrcre pesti
Communi e."

On Tuesday^, ]May 8, the king was proclaimed by the order
of both lords and commons. On the 2ord of that month his
majesty^ left Holland ; and on Friday, the 2.3th, he landed
on the beach near Dover pier, whence, being gladly received,
he proceeded within a few days, amid the joyous acclama-

Online LibraryJames Wayland JoyceEngland's sacred synods : a constitutional history of the convocations of the clergy, from the earliest records of Christianity in Britain to the date of the promulgation of the present Book of common prayer; including a list of all councils, ecclesiastical as well as civil, held in England, in whic → online text (page 76 of 83)