John Gordon Lorimer.

An historical sketch of the Protestant church of France, from its origin to the present times. With parallel notices of the Church of Scotland during the same period online

. (page 32 of 56)
Online LibraryJohn Gordon LorimerAn historical sketch of the Protestant church of France, from its origin to the present times. With parallel notices of the Church of Scotland during the same period → online text (page 32 of 56)
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t^ided that it was so, — ^tiiat, in all circumstances, passive
obedience and non-resistance are a Christian duty, — and
that, in departing from this principle, they violated the
law of Christ, and were chaigeable with rebellion. He
holds, that patience and unresisting suffering are the
strengdiL of the Church. Others have quoted our Lord s
saying to Peter, — " Put up thy sword into its place, for
931 they that take the sword, shall perish vdth the
Bword," — attempting to show histcnically, that where



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Christians hare had recourse to self-defence in hehaif of
their religion, they have always heen cut off by the
sword. But Dr Pusey, in a recent sermon before the
Uniyersity of Oxford, has gone greater lengths than any
writer whom we remember on the same subject. He
holds, that the French Protestants were allowed to feJl a
prey to the horrible Popish plot of St Bartholomew, in
which 60,000 to 70,000 were massacred in the basest
treachery, " because they were an active, busy, scheming
body, v^th worldly wisdom ;" and that the Church and
people of England were preserved from the Popish Gun-
powder Plot, because " they were passive." He is pleased
also, in his presumptuous interpretation of Providence,
to attribute the decline of religion in Great Britain, in
the last century, to the Revolution of 1 688, and to r^ard
it as an expression of the judgments of Gh)d on the nation
for dethroning the Popish James ! He speaks of men
"daring" to call the Revolution of 1688 **a glorious
Revolution," — declares that we must " disavow" the sins
of the men who carried it through ; and that, had the
people "remained passive under the shadow of God's
wings, the tyranny had passed ova* ; but man interposed
schemes of his own — ^they did that which their Lord upon
the cross was taunted to do, but did not, — ' they saved
themselves,' and so they were permitted to mar the good
purpose of God." He speaks also of the age of Charles
II. being the golden age of the divines of the English
Church, when their passive virtues were called forth and
exercised by suffering; whereas, the last century was the
deadest and shallowest period of English theology and
of the English Church ; and that the Revolution of 1 688
" ejected a valuable portion of her members — ^the non-
jurors — divided and so weakened her," &c.

It would greatly and imnecessarily swell this little
work to enter upon a discussion of these and similar
points. There is not one of them which would not
admit, as an objection, of a satisfactory answer. Let me
rather shortly advert to the general principle which is
involved in cases of resistance. No Christian doubts



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that in all cases it is the great and imperative rtds to
suhmit to authority, however despotic, and that it is tm-
lawful and sinfiil to resist it ; but most Christians have
usually allowed that there are exceptions to this rule,— <
that if a Government commands what is contrary to, or
forbids what is enjoined by, the law of Ood, it is the
duty of subjects in these cases to obey God rather than
man — just as parents and masters are to be resisted when
they require what is contrary to the Divine will. These,
however, are rare and terrible steps, which are to be re-
sorted to only in the clearest cases, and after all other
means have failed. Such, we contend, was substantially
the case on those occasions where the Protestant Pres-
byterians of France and Scotland betook themselves to
arms a^inst their oppressors. These oppressors for-
bade what God had enjoined ; for instance, they denied
them the free exercise of public worship. "Would it have
been right here to have obeyed man, and to have aban-
doned Sie worship of God ? The Christians of France
and of this country did not hastily rise in rebellion.
They bore long, and with pre-eminent meekness, all the
hardships and persecutions to which they were exposed.
They showed vastly more forbearance and good temper
under provocation than the Puseyites in controversy,
who are so forward to condemn them. It was only
when all other resources failed, that they betook them-
selves to the last extremity ; and not a few of their reluc-
tant risings in self-defence were the act of the moment,
prompted not by deliberate design, but the urgency and
suffering of the occasion. These considerations surely
go far, not only to vindicate their proceedings, but to
proclaim them worthy of approbation. It is no answer
to say, that Scripture and the primitive Church give no
authority to, or example of, resistance to civil government.
The cases to which we refer are confessedly extreme.
Scripture deals rather in general principles, leaving the
application to enlightened conscience, than in minute
details of cases, and of all possible exceptions to general
rules. It does not tell us to resist parents when they



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eommand what is wrong; jet this must be taken for
granted. As Christianity does not deprive men of their
natural rights — of what they possessed as men antecedent
to, and independent of, revelation, so the burden of prov-
ing the obligation of non-resistance in every possible case,
even the clearest and most atrocious, obviously rests with
Dr Pusey and his friends, and those who hold his senti-
ments; and that can be done only by their adducing from
Scripture a direct prohibition against Christians resisting
civil authority in any case whatever. This would estab-
lish the point, for Scripture is supreme, and entitled to
limit natural rights ; but nothing else will avail. I need
scarcely say, however, that this is what Dr Pusey does
not attempt to do. Besides, in a country where Chris-
tianity is civily recognised, as it was both in France and
Britain, men stand upon a different footing from those
who live in a heathen country, like the primitive Chris-
tians, where Christianity is not tolerated. In the one
case there might be such an outrageous violation of pub-
lic and acknowledged rights, as would warrant men in
having recourse to resistance as the last and only remedy,
while the same resistance would be quite unlawful
and wrong in a Pagan country, where the Christians
(Christianity not being tolerated) could have no rights,
existed only by sufferance, and so were not entitled to
run counter to the known and proclaimed constitution
erf the country, and endeavour by forcible means to sub-
vert it.

With regard to the primitive Church, of which Dr
Pusey is so much enamoured, no one who has studied
its character and history, especially with the lights which
the ^ninent author of " Ancient Christianity " has re-
cently struck out, will be disposed to place much reli-
ance on either its testimony or example. It is well
known that a fanatical love of suffering and martyrdom
early appeared in the Church, which would render such
proceedings as are condemned in the Protestants of
France and Scotland in a great measure inapplicable.

The earlier primitive Church stood in very peculiar



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ciicumstances. Oppressed and persecuted, and anxious
cliiefly for the iailMd maintenance of its testimony
against Pagan idolatry, it is unfair to make it the pattern
for a CSiristian community, whose condition is altogether
different,-— of men possessed of certain civil powers and
privileges. Who knows hnt that, had the early Chris-
tians heen otherwise situated, they would not have felt
and acted di0erently ? It is highly prohahle that they
would. But whatever may he thought of the unresist-
ing, meek submission of the earlier Church, all who are
acquainted with ecclesiastical history are well aware
that very different was the spirit of its successor. Dr
Pusey and his friends are as great admirers of the
Christian Church of ike fourth as of the third century.
They pay as much, perhaps more, regard to Basil and
his contemporaries, than to Cyprian and his associates.
And what was the spirit of the leading men of the fourth
century ? How did they take the contempt and rough
treatment of the apostate Julian, and afterwards of the
Arian emperors? Was their temper that of passive
obedience and non-resistance? Were Basil and the
Gregories, in addressing Julian and speaking of him,
not^ for the mildness of the dove or the lamb ? Were
they not eminent for their bold arrogance and lawless
contumacy, so that one wonders the Caesars bore the
provocation so meekly? Assuredly the writings of
Basil and of Gregory indicate a spirit of resistance^ to
which we shall find no parallel among the persecuted
Presbyterians of France and of Britain. And yet these
are the great authorities of the new Anglican school of
passive obedience and non-resistance, and leading guides
of what is called the primitive Church ! K Dr rusey
and his party will be ruled by the primitive Churchy
let them be foxt and consistent, and go the full length of
their professed principle. Let them take the primitive
Church " for better or for worse," and not for the for-
mer only.

With regard to the supposed good which has resulted
from passive suffering, and the still greater amount of



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good which would haye resulted, had there nerer heen
any deviation from it, — and with regard also to ihe al-
leged eyil which has been the fruit of making use of
self-defence in religion, — ^it must be confessed that there
is great uncertainty in such interpretations of Proyidence.
Many of them are obviously unwarranted and presump-
tuous. How does Dr Pusey know that the Protestants
of France were allowed to be massacred in thousands,
because they were active, and busy, and scheming, as he
alleges? We deny that such characteristics belonged
to them at all. It is well known, that for a considerable
time previous to the massacre, they had been as quiet
as could be desired. And how does he know that Eng-
land was saved from the Popish plot of the 5th Novem-
ber, because she was passive ? It is well known that her
sovereign at that period — James VI., the head of the
Ghurdi of England — was a decided advocate of the duty
of Christian subjects resisting tyrannous rulers, and aided
foreign Protestants and encouraged them to rise against
their oppressors. It is not unknown, also, that in the
previous reign, the whole Convocation of the English
Church publicly acknowledged it " glorious to assist
subjects in their resistance to their sovereign, and their
endeavours to rid themselves of their tyranny and op-
pressions." What were the punishments inflicted on
the Church of England for these incentives to rebel-
lion? How, too, does Dr Pusey come to know that
the irreUgion and infidelity of the last century were the
punishment of the suocessfrd rebellion of 1688 ; and that,
if the Church and country had been passive in the hand
of €k>d, deliverance would have come from another quar-
ter? These are mere assumptions — ^not very loyal to
the royal family at present on the throne ; and there is
not the smallest attempt at proof. The truth is, that
the &cts of history in this and other cases warrant an
entirely opposite inference. It is not true that those
Christians who have been constrained unwillingly, and
in dir^ul extremity, to take the sword, have perished ;
and that those who have practised passive obedience and



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non-resistance, hare liyed and prospered. The reyerse
is nearer the truth. We do not think that the caution
of our Lord to Peter was intended to convey the doc-
trine for which it is quoted. Understood in this sense,
it is a denial of the right of self-defence in any circum-
stances. It is equivalent to saying that we are neither
to defend ourselves nor others in cases of the greatest
dsiQger. But apart from this, in point of fact, Protes-
tantism has perished in Italy and ^ain where there was
no resistance, while it has prevailed in France, and Eng-
land, and Scotland, and Germany, where men defended
themselves and their religion against oppression and
persecution. The cases referred to by Dr Pusey are at
war with his theory. It is imagined that the doctrine
of unlimited passive obedience is favourable to noncon-
formity to the world and high spirituaHty; but were
there any of the " passive" periods of England, which
in these respects could compare with the " rebellious"
periods of Scotland, from 1638 to 1649, and from ] 688
to 171 1 ? Accordmg to this theory, after the two rebel-
lions, Christian men should have perished. Any reli-
gion which remained should have been tumultuous,
worldly, political. Can any thing be more entirely at
variance with the fact? The French Protestants em-
ployed no resistance at the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes in 1685. Did that preserve them, and refine their
Christianity ? No. The Scottish Presbyterians aided
the Bevolution of 1 688 by their arms. Did that destroy
them and their Christianity? No. They lived, and
for dO years after the Revolution the Gospel made
progress, so that the period is called the Third Refor-
mation. It was not till the Jacobite party succeeded in
canying the Patronage Act of 1711, that there was any
serious check to the progress of true religion, and that
check did not operate immediatdy. So far, then, from
the decline of religion being the punishment of the Revo-
hition, it was the Revolution, at least in Sootland, which
was a main cause of the revival of relieion. The decline
b^;aa under the revived influence of the Act 171 1» of



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those yery principles which Dr Pusey thinks should never
have been cast out of the throne ! The truth seems to
be, that so far from resistance to persecution being always
punished with disaster to refigion and religious men,
the firmness and resolution, blended with meekness aad
temperance which it ofiten displays, are made the means,
in the hand of Qod, of oyerawing enemies, and pro-
curing more reasonable terms for the professors of the
Gospel, than they would otherwise obtain. In suck
cases, Christians frequently cannot be worse than they
are. They are persecuted if they suffer unresistingly, and
they are but persecuted if they are constrained to resist.

After all, perhaps, it is not wonderful that Dr Pusey
should dislike the Revolution of 1688; It was a
great Protestant Bevolution. His sympathies must be
much stronger with the Popish James, and the semi-
Popish non-jurors, than with Protestant William. But
what a view does it give the peoj^e of Great l^tain
of the true character of Puseyism, — ^that it hates and
denounces, as the harbinger of judgment, one oi the
brightest events in the history of Britain* This dan-
gerous heresy has been, and is, in the course of expo-
sure in many of its doctrinal aspects. It would seem
that in its political features it is not safe. Whatever
its followers may profess to the contrary, holding the
principles which they do, they cannot be warm Mends
of the House of Hanover. The present remarks will
not be thrown away if the reader sees more clearly than
before, that what is imsound in religion cannot be safe
in politics, and vice versa.

But I cannot dismiss the subject without condenming
the severe tone in which Dr Pusey, and doubtless his
party, speak of the French Protestants. It is easy for
men living under their own vine and fig-tree, with none
to make £em afraid, to sit as critics upon the spirit and
proceedings of men who are smarting under protracted
persecution, and to say here and there they wore cen-
surable. This is heartless enough. But fDr professed
ministers of the Gospel to take into their puny hands



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the thunderbolt of hearen, and to sdy that the massacre
of men in thousands — fiar better men than themselves —
hy the hands of Popish treachery and violence, was the
punishment of asdieming and worldly-wise spirit, is in-
sufferable presumption. Who is Dr Pusey or his fiiei^ds,
to sit in judgment on such men as Cohgny and Peter
Ramus, and the noble French martyrs of 1572 ? Is this
the meek spirit of the new school of Anglican theology ?
Is Puseyism &ee from all that savours of a worldly-
wise spirit ? But the truth of the matter seems to be,
that me French Protestant Church, through all her
histoiy, is hated because she is a Presbyterian Church,
because she lays no claim to that nonentity — " Apostolic
Episcopal succession" — awhile the best blood of Protestant
Christendom flows in her veins. But however harshly
ihe new semi-Popish party may speak of the French
Protestants, men of higher name speak in very different
torms. Jonathan Eldwards, one of the first names in
the Christian Church, referring to France, says, towards
the end of last century, — ^^ Heretofore there have been
multitudes of Protestants in France. Many famous
Protestant churches were over all that country, who
used to meet together in Synods, and maintain a very
r^ular discipline ; and a great part of that kingdom
were Protestants. The Protestant Church of France
was a great part of the glory of the Reformation"*
But in case the testmiony of a Presbyterian and a Cal-
vinist, however intellectual and learned, should have
litde weight with the new FiUglish school, I beg leave
to refer tiiem to the testimony of a bishop of their own
Church. Gilbert Burnet, a^r being on the Continent,
writes, in the " History of his own Times," under the
year 1680, — ^^ I was indeed amazed at the labours and
learning of the ministers among the Eeformed : they im-
derstand the Scriptures well in the original tongues.
They had all the points of controversy very ready, and
did thoroughly understand the whole body of divinity.
In many places they preached every day, and were almost

* History of Redemptton, p. 298.
Z



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constantly employed in yisiting their flocks." These 9ie
the men who know nothing ahout the E^iscopsd sac-
cession, — and who would prohahly despise it if thcgr
did. These are the ministers of ihe Church of which
Dr Pusey and his party speak so disrespectfully — so
daringly. It would he well if all who absiurdly hoast of
this fictitious ^^ succession" could point to learning, qua-
lifications, and labours equally decided. But p^haps
the ^^ succession" makes up for all oth^ defid^acies.
Should it be thought that ^imet, though a bishop, was
too liberal and diaritable towards the iWbyterians, we
can appeal to a mcnre modem testimony. The Rey. £^
Croly, the present eminait Hector of St Steph^is,
Wall»:ook, London, whom no one will accuse of want
of regard fen* the Church of Ekigland, in his *' Interpreta-
tion of the Apocalypse of St John," finds the Protestant
Church of France, of whom the new Anglican school
speak so contemptuously, represented vaiaer the third
trun^t, ^^ as a great star from heayen, burning as it
were a lamp;" and his histcnioal illustration runs in
these words : — ^' The Protestant Church of France
Icmg desired its emblem. It was a burning lamp fi[)r
haS a century, unquestionably one of the most illus-
trious Churches of Europe. It held the Goi^>d[ in
singular purity. Its preachers were apostolic. Its
people the purest, most intdlectual, and most illustrious
of France. Before the close of the 16th century it
amounted to two and a half millions of souls. The q»irit
of the Papacy then resolved upon its destruction,"* &c«
Such, accordmg to Dr Croly — an enhght^ied minister of
the Church of England — ^was the Church which many
of his brethren would pronounce not to be a Chuich at
all ; such was the Presbyterian Churdi of France at
the very time in which Dr Pusey speaks of her beuig
" an active, busy, scheming body, with worldly wisdom,
and therefore punished with the massacre of St Bar-
tholomew ! I might quote other testimonies. Let me
only remind the reader, that Mr Faber, one of the most
• p. 96.



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learned and distinguii^ed ministers of the English
Church, has recently written a laige Tolmne, to 3iow
tiiat the Waldenses, who form the cniginal stock of the
French Protestant and Presbyterian Church, are the
honoured ^^ witnesses'* of the Book of Eeyelation ; in
ahcnrt, the only risible Church of God in a long part of
the reign of Antichrist ; and yet he cannot i£ow that
they have the Episcopal succession !

With regard to the greater passiyeness and non-resist-
ance of the Church t>f England, these did not proceed
from the greater preralence of enl^htened Christianity
within her pale, but -because her erangelical religion has
in general been so slender compared with that of Scot-
land, thai she has not, like her, been so frequently brought
into edlision with the powers of a persecuting State. She
has shown, howerer, when the occasion occunred, that she
did not feel it to be her duty to be entirely passive. It
is justly said by Bishop Hoadley, in his ^' Answer to the
Dean (^Chichester," — ^ The nemonstrances both against
the crown and the mitre, and thei civil war itself, were
begun and carried on by Churchmen — ^by constant
Churchmen — ^by a Parliament full of Churchmen." The
contest of the members of t^e Church of England with
Cromwell, aEker he had manifestly the power — ^with
Aunes YII., issuing in the dethroning of the latter, show
that she is aliye to the lawfulness, in extreme cases, of
resisting the existing ciril authority; and we are not
aware that these periods in the history of the Church
indicated less piety and leaniing than others. It was
not the Established Church, it was the Nonconformists
who were the great sufferers throughout the reign of
Oiailes IL; and admitting that the theologians, sub-
sequent to the Revolution of 1688, were decidedly
inferior to those who inmiediately preceded them, it
is to be remembered that the theologians of a still
earlier period — of the days of Elizabeth and James
VI. — ^were superior to liiose of Charles II. ; and yet
tii^ese were the men, such as Jewel and many oth«!B,
who hdid the lawfidness add duty, in certain circum-
fltanoes, of resistance; and they lived under sovereigns



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who hdd and exemplified the same doctrine. The days
of Charles I. are generally looked back to by Dr Posey
and his followers sis the most glorious days of the Churm
of England, as the happy days when Archbishop Laud
bore the sway; but eyen Chaiies I., at least his Parlia-
ment, encouraged the French Protestants to resist ; and
in the office of devotion prepared for the occasion, the
nation was directed, throughout the Church of England,
to pray for all those " who here, or elsewhere, were
fighting God's battles and defending his altars." I need
scarcely remind the reader, that, at a later day, Hook^,
the idol of the Chiurch of England, numbered himself
among the resistance men ; and that the other eminent
divines of the age of Charles II. owed much to their
learned Puritan tutors, for whom they entertained the
greatest respect^ and all of whom, speaking generally,
held the sentiments of the Church of France and the
Church of Scotland on the duty of redstance in extreme
cases. Many divines of the English Church in more
modem times, and, among others, the present Bishop of
Exeter (Dr Philpotts), in his Pamphlets on the Popish
Question, could be quoted to the same effect ; but I can-
not enlarge. It would be a serious omission, however,
not to notice the sentiments of the University of Oxford
on the subject, as attested by indubitable historical fiicts.
Dr Pusey dedicates the sermon which forms the ground
of the present comment, to the Rev. John Keble, M.A.,
Professor of Poetry ; and his strong recommendation for
the honour is, that '^ in years past he unccmsciously im-
planted a truth, which was afl^wards to take root — ^him-
self the dutiful disciple of its ancient guardian and
faithful witness in word and action — the University of
Oxford" The alleged truth referred to — ^unless there
be a marvellous discrepancy between the dedication and
the doctrine of the sermon — ^is, the truth of passive obe-
dience and non-resistance. And has the University of
Oxford, then, of which Dr Pusey is one of the Professors,
always been, as is contended, a ^thful witness to passive
obedience and non-resistance? The Professor should
know the history of his own University ; but it would



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seem that here he has foigotten one of its most striking
passages — certainly not a very honourable or consistent
one. It is a remarkable &ct, that the diyines of the
Uniyersity of Oxford extracted 27 propositions from the
writings of Baxter, Milton, &c., which maintained that



Online LibraryJohn Gordon LorimerAn historical sketch of the Protestant church of France, from its origin to the present times. With parallel notices of the Church of Scotland during the same period → online text (page 32 of 56)