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To displace Calvinism the aims of Laud and of wiser
men than Laud required a new spiritual basis, and this
was found in the doctrines of the Dutch Arminius.
They had arisen in Holland at the beginning of the
century, marking there a liberal and rationalist reac-
tion against Calvinist rigor, and they were now wel-
comed by the Laudians as bringing a needed keystone
to the quaking double arch of church and state. Ar-
minianism had been condemned at the Synod of Dort
(1619) ; but as a half-way house between Catholicism
on the one hand and Calvinism on the other, it met a
want in the minds of a rising generation in England
who disliked Rome and Geneva equally, and sought to
found an Anglo-Catholic school of their own. Laud
concerned himself much less with the theology than
with the latent politics of Arminianism. and in fact he
usually denied that he was an x\rminian. He said, as
in truth many others in all times and places might have
said, that the question was one beyond his faculties.
It was as statesman rather than as keeper of the faith


that he discerned the bearings of the great Dutch
heresy, which was to permeate the Church of England
for many a generation to come. In Arminianism Pre-
destination was countered by Free Will; implacable
Necessity by room for merciful Contingency; Man the
Machine by Man the self-determining Agent, using
means, observing conditions. How it is that these
strong currents and cross-currents of divinity land
men at the two antipodes in politics, which seem out
of all visible relation with divinity, we need not here
attempt to trace. Unseen, non-logical, fugitive, and
subtle are the threads and fine filaments of air that draw
opinion to opinion. They are like the occult affinities
of the alchemist, the curious sympathies of old phy-
sicians, or the attraction of hidden magnets. All his-
tory shows us how theological ideas abound in political
aspects to match, and Arminianism, which in Holland
itself had sprung into vogue in connection with the
political dispute between Barneveldt and Prince Mau-
rice, rapidly became in England the corner-stone of
faith in a hierarchy, a ceremonial church, and a mon-
archy. This is not the less true because in time the
course of events drew some of the Presbyterian pha-
lanx further away from Calvinism than they would
have thought possible in earlier days, when, like other
Puritans, they deemed Arminianism no better than a
fore-court of popery, atheism, Socinianism, and all the
other unholy shrines. To the student of opinions
viewing the theological controversy of Cromwell's
time with impartial eye, it is clear that, while Calvin-
ism inspired incomparable energy, concentration, reso-
lution, the rival doctrine covered a wider range of
human nature, sounded more abiding depths, and com-
prehended better all the many varied conditions under
which the "poor worm" of Calvin and of Cromwell


strives to make the best of itself and to work out the
destinies of its tiny day. "Truth," said Arminius,
"even theological truth, has been sunk in a deep well,
whence it cannot be drawn forth without much effort."
This the wise world has long found out. But these
pensive sayings are ill suited for a time when the naked
sword is out of its sheath. Each side believed that it
was the possessor at least of truth enough to fight for ;
and what is peculiar in the struggle is that each party
and sub-division of a party from King Charles down
to the Leveler and the Fifth Monarchy Man, held his
ideal of a church inseparably bound up with his ideal
of the rightly ordered state.

In the sardonic dialogue upon these times which he
called "Behemoth," Hobbes savs that it is not points
necessary to salvation that have raised all the quarrels,
but questions of authority and power over the church,
or of profit and honor to churchmen. In other words,
it has always been far less a question of what to be-
lieve, than of whom to believe. "All human questions,
even those of theologians, have secret motives in the
conduct and character of those who profess them"
( Nisard ) . Hobbes' view may be thought to lower the
dignity of conscience, yet he has many a chapter of
Western history on his side. Disputes between ortho-
dox and heretic have mixed up with mysteries of the
faith all the issues of mundane policy and secular in-
terest, all the strife of nationality, empire, party, race,
dynasty. A dogma becomes the watchword of a fac-
tion ; a ceremonial rite is made the ensign for the am-
bition of statesmen. The rival armies manoeuver on


the theological or the ecclesiastical field, but their im-
pulse like their purpose is political or personal. It
was so in the metaphysical conflicts that tore the world
in the third and fourth centuries of the Christian era,
and so it was in the controversies that swept over the
sixteenth century and the seventeenth.

The center of the storm in England now came to be
the question that has vexed Western Europe for so
many generations down to this hour, the cjuestion who
is to control the law and constitution of the church.
The Pope and the Councils, answered the Guelph; the
emperor answered the Ghibelline. This was in the
early middle age. In England and France the ruling
power adopted a different line. There kings and law-
yers insisted that it was for the national or local gov-
ernment to measure and limit the authority of the
national branch of the church universal. The same
principle was followed by the first reformers in Ger-
many and Switzerland, and by Henry VIII and Cran-
mer. Then came a third view, not Guelph, nor Ghib-
elline, nor Tudor. The need for concentration in
religion had not disappeared ; it had rather become
more practically urgent, for schism was followed by
heresy and theological libertinism. Calvin at Geneva
a generation after Luther, claimed for the spiritual
power independence of the temporal, just as the Pope
did, but he pressed another scheme of religious organi-
zation. Without positively excluding bishops, he
favored the system by which the spiritual power was
to reside in a council of presbyters, partly ministers,
partly laymen. This was the scheme that the strenu-
ous and powerful character of John Knox had suc-
ceeded in stamping upon Scotland. It was also the
scheme that in England was the subject of the dispute
in Elizabeth's time between Cartwright and Whitgift,


and the main contention of that famous admonition of
1572 in which Puritanism is usually supposed to have
first taken definite shape. During the years when
Cromwell was attending to his husiness at St. Ives, this
reorganization of the chiuxh upon the lines of the
Presbyterian churches abroad, marked the direction
in which serious minds were steadily looking. But
with no violently revolutionary sense or intention.
That slowly grew up with events. Decentralization was
the key in church reform as in political reform; the
association of laity with bishops, as of commonalty
with the king. Different church questions hovered in
men's minds, sometimes vaguely, sometimes w^ith pre-
cision, rising into prominence one day, dwindling away
the next. Phase followed phase, and we call the whole
the Puritan revolution, just as we give the name of
Puritan alike to Baxter and Hugh Peters, to the ugly
superstition of Nehemiah Wallington and the glory of
John Milton — men with hardly a single leading trait in
common. The Synod of Dort (1619), which some
count the best date for the origin of Puritanism, was
twofold in its action ; it ratified election by grace, and
it dealt a resounding blow^ to episcopacy. Other topics
of controversy indeed abounded as time went on.
^^estment and ceremonial, the surplice or the gown,
the sign of the cross at baptism, altar or table, sitting
or kneeling, no pagan names for children, no anointing
of kings or bishops — all these and similar things were
matter of passionate discussion, veiling grave differen-
ces of faith under what look like mere triflings about
indifferent form. But the power and station of the
bishop, his temporal prerogative, his coercive jurisdic-
tion, his usurping arrogance, his subserviences to the
crown, were wiiat made men's hearts hot within them.
The grievance was not speculative but actual, not a


thing of opinion but of experience and visible circum-

The Reformation had barely touched the authority
of the ecclesiastical courts though it had rendered that
authority dependent on the civic power. Down to the
calling of the Long Parliament, the backslidings of the
laity no less than of the clergy, in private morals no less
than in public observance, were by these courts vigi-
lantly watched and rigorously punished. The penalties
went beyond penitential impressions on mind and con-
science, and clutched purse and person. The arch-
deacon is the eye of the bishop, and his court was as
busy as the magistrate at Bow Street. In the twelve
months ending at the date of the assembly of the Long
Parliament, in the archdeacon's court in London no
fewer than two thousand persons were brought up for
tippling, sabbath-breaking, and incontinence. This
Moral Police of the Church, as it was called, and the
energy of its discipline, had no small share in the un-
popularity of the whole ecclesiastical institution.
Clarendon says of the clergymen of his day in well-
known words, that "they understand the least, and
take the worst measure of human affairs, of all man-
kind that can write and read." In no age have they
been admired as magistrates or constables. The juris-
diction of the court of bishop or archdeacon did not
exceed the powers of a Scottish kirk-session, but there
was the vital difference that the Scotch court was
democratic in the foundation of its authority, while
the English court was a privileged annex of monarchy.

In loftier spheres the same aspirations after ecclesi-
astical control in temporal affairs waxed bold. An
archbishop was made chancellor of Scotland. Juxon,
the Bishop of London, was made Lord High Trea-
surer of England. No churchman, says Laud com-


placently, has had it since the time of Henry the
Seventh. The Chief Justice goes down to the assizes
in the west, and issues an injunction to the clergy to
pubHsh certain judicial orders against feasts and
wakes. He is promptly called up by Laud for en-
croaching on church jurisdiction. The king com-
mands the Chief Justice to recall the orders. He
disobeys, and is again brought before the council,
where Laud gives him such a rating that he comes out
in tears.

The issue was raised in its most direct form (No-
vember, 1628) in the imperious declaration that stands
prefixed to the thirty-nine articles in the Prayer Book
of this day. The church-goer of our time, as in a list-
less moment he may hit upon this dead page, should
know what indignant fires it once kindled in the breasts
of his forefathers. To them it seemed the signal for
quenching truth, for silencing the inward voice, for
spreading darkness over the sanctuary of the soul.
The king announces that it is his duty not to suffer un-
necessary disputations or questions to be raised. He
commands all further curious search beyond the true,
usual, literal meaning of the articles to be laid aside.
Any uni\'ersity teacher who fixes a new sense to one of
the articles, will be visited by the displeasure of the
king and the censure of the church ; and it is for the
convocation of the bishops and clergy alone, with
license under the king's broad seal, to do whatever
might be needed in respect of doctrine and discipline.
Shortly before the accession of Charles the same
spirit of the hierarchy had shown itself in notable
instructions. Nobody under a bishop or a dean was
to presume to preach in any general auditory the deep
points of predestination, election, reprobation, or of
the universality, resistibility, or irresistibility of divine


grace. But then these were the very points that
thinking men were interested in. To remove them out
of the area of pubHc discussion, while the declaration
about the articles was meant in due time to strip them
of their Calvinistic sense, was to assert the royal su-
premacy in its most odious and intolerable shape. The
result was what might have been expected. Sacred
things and secular became one interest. Civil politics
and ecclesiastical grew to be the same. Tonnage and
poundage and predestination, ship-money and election,
habeas corpus and justification by faith, all fell into
line. The control of Parliament over convocation was
as cherished a doctrine as its control over the ex-
chequer. As for toleration, this had hardly yet come
into sight. Of respect for right of conscience as a
conviction, and for free discussion as a principle, there
was at this stage hardly more on one side than on the
other. Without a qualm the very Parliament that
fought with such valor for the Petition of Right
(March, 1629) declared that anybody who should be
seen to extend or introduce any opinion, whether papis-
tical, Arminian, or other, disagreeing from the true
and orthodox church, should be deemed a capital
enemy of the kingdom and commonwealth.

It was political and military events that forced a
revolution in ecclesiastical ideas. Changing needs
gradually brought out the latent social applications of
a Puritan creed, and on the double base rose a demo-
cratic party in a modern sense, the first in the history
of English politics. Until the middle of the seven-
teenth century independency was a designation hardly
used, and Cromwell himself at first rejected it, per-
haps with the wise instinct of the practical statesman
against being too quick to assume a compromising
badge before occasion positively forces. He was never


much of a democrat, but the same may be said of
many, if not most, of those whom democracy has used
to do its business. Calvinism and Jacobinism sprang
aHke from France, from the same land of absolute
ideals, and Cromwell was in time already to hear in
full blast from the grim lips of his military saints the
right of man as all the world knew them so well a hun-
dred and fifty years later.



WENTWORTH said in his early days that it was
ill contending with the king outside of Parlia-
ment. Acting on this maxim, the popular leaders,
with the famous exception of Hampden, watched the
king's despotic courses for eleven years (1629-40)
without much public question. Duties were levied
by royal authority alone. Monopolies were extended
over all the articles of most universal consumption.
The same sort of inquisition into title that Wentworth
had practised m Ireland was applied in England, under
circumstances of less enormity yet so oppressively that
the people of quality and honor, as Clarendon calls
them, upon whom the burden of such proceedings
mainly fell, did not forget it when the day of reckon-
ing came. The Star Chamber, the Council, and the
Court of High Commission, whose province affected
affairs ecclesiastical, widened the area of their arbi-
trary jurisdiction, invaded the province of the regular
courts, and inflicted barbarous punishments. Every-
body knows the cases of Leighton, of Lilburne, of
Prynne, Burton, and Bastwick ; how for writing books
against prelacy, or play-acting, or Romish innovations
by church dignitaries, men of education and learned


professions were set in the pillory, had their ears cut
off, their noses slit, their cheeks branded, were heavily
fined, and flung into prison for so long as the king
chose to keep them there.

Even these gross outrages on personal right did less
to rouse indignation than the exaction of ship-money;
nor did the exaction of the impost itself create so much
alarm as the doctrines advanced by servile judges in
its vindication, using "a logic that left no man any-
thing that he might call his own.'' The famous Italian
who has earned so bad a name in the world for lower-
ing the standards of public virtue and human self-
esteem, said that men sooner forget the slaying of a
father than the taking of their property. But Charles,
with the best will to play the Machiavellian if he had
known how, never more than half learned the lessons
of the part.

The general alarms led to passive resistance in
Essex, Devonshire, Oxfordshire. A stout-hearted
merchant of the City of London brought the matter on
a suit for false imprisonment before the King's Bench.
Here one of the judges actually laid down the doctrine
that there is a rule of law and a rule of government, and
that many things which might not be done by the rule
of law maybe done by the rule of government. In other
words, law must be tempered by reason of state, which
is as good as to say no law. With more solemnity
the lawfulness of the tax was argued in the famous
case of John Hampden for a fortnight (1637) before
the twelve judges in the Exchequer Chamber. The
result was equally fatal to that principle of no taxation
without assent of Parliament, to which the king had
formally subscribed in passing the Petition of Right.
The decision against Hampden contained the startling
propositions that no statute can bar a king of his


regality; that statutes taking away his royal power in
defense of his kingdom are void ; and that the king has
an absokite authority to dispense with any law in cases
of necessity, and of this necessity he must be the judge.
This decision has been justly called one of the great
events of English history.

Both the system of government and its temper
were designated by Strafford and Laud under the cant
watchword of Thorough. As a system it meant per-
sonal rule in the state, and an authority beyond the law
courts in the church. In respect of political temper it
meant the prosecution of the system through thick and
thin, without fainting or flinching, without half-meas-
ures or timorous stumbling; it meant vigilance, dex-
terity, relentless energy. Such was Thorough. The
counter- watchword was as good. If this was the bat-
tle-cry of the court, Root-and-Branch gradually be-
came the inspiring principle of reform as it un-
consciously drifted into revolution. Things went
curiously slowly. The country in the face of this con-
spiracy against law and usage lay to all appearance
profoundly still. No active resistance was attempted,
or even whispered. Pym kept unbroken silence. Of
Cromwell we have hardly a glimpse, and he seems to
have taken the long years of interregnum as patiently
as most of his neighbors. After some short unquiet-
ness of the people, says Clarendon, 'there quickly fol-
lowed so excellent a composure throughout the whole
kingdom that the like peace and tranquillity for ten
years was never enjoyed by any nation." As we shall
see, when after eleven years of misgovernment a Par-
liament was izhosen, it was found too moderate for its

It was in his native country that Charles first came
into direct conflict with the religious fervor that was


to destroy him. It only needed a spark to set in flames
the fabric that king and archbishop were striving to
rear in England. This spark flew over the border
from Scotland, where Charles and Laud played with
fire. In Scotland the Reformation had been a popular
movement, springing from new and deepened religious
experience and sense of individual responsibility in the
hearts and minds of the common people. Bishops had
not ceased to exist, but their authority was little more
than shadow. By the most fatal of the many infatu-
ations of his life, Charles tried (1637) to make the
shadow substance, and to introduce canons and a ser-
vice-book framed by Laud and his friends in England.
Infatuation as it was, policy was the prompter.
Charles, Strafford, and Laud all felt that the bonds
between the three kingdoms were dangerously loose,
slender, troublesome, and uncertain. As Cromwell
too perceived when his time came, so these three
understood the need for union on closer terms between
England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in accordance
with the mental fashion of the time they regarded
ecclesiastical uniformity as the key to political unity.
Some Scottish historians have held that the royal in-
novations might have secured silent and gradual acqui-
escence in time, if no compulsion had been used. Pa-
tience, alas, is the last lesson that statesmen, rulers, or
peoples can be brought to learn. As it was the rugged
Scots broke out in violent revolt, and it spread like
flame through their kingdom. Almost the whole
nation hastened to subscribe that famous National
Covenant (February 27, 1638), which, even as we
read it in these cool and far-off days, is still vibrating
and alive with all the passion, the faithfulness, the
wrath, that inspired the thousands of stern fanatics

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who set their hands to it. Its fierce enumeration of
the abhorred doctrines and practices of Rome, its scorn-
ful maledictions on them, are hot with the same lurid
flame as glows in the retaliatory lists of heresy issued
from age to age from Rome itself. It is in this Na-
tional Covenant of 1638 that we find ourselves at the
heart and central fire of militant Puritanism of the
seventeenth century.

It is a curious thing that people in England were so
little alive to what was going on in Scotland until
the storm broke. Nobody cared to know anything
about Scotland, and they were both more interested
and better informed as to what was passing in Ger-
many or Poland than what happened across the border.
The king handled Scotch affairs himself, with two or
three Scotch nobles, and things had come to extrem-
ities before he opened them either to his counselors or
to the public in England. An armed force of coven-
anted Scots was set in motion toward the border. The
king advanced to York, and there heard such news of
the obstinacy of the rebels, of the disaffection of his
own men to the quarrel, and of mischief that might
follow from too close intercourse between Scots and
English, that in his bewilderment he sanctioned the
pacification of Berwick (June, 1639). Disputes arose
upon its terms; the Scots stubbornly extended their
demands; Richelieu secretly promised help. Charles
summoned Strafford to his side from Ireland, and that
haughty counselor told him that the Scots must be
whipped into their senses again. Then ( Alarch, 1640)
he crossed back to Ireland for money and troops. War
between the king and his Scots was certain, and it was
the necessities of this war that led to the first step in
saving the freedom of England.



The king, in straits that left him no choice, sought
aid from Parhament. The Short ParHament, that
now assembled, definitely opens the first great chapter
of the Revolution. After twenty years the Restor-
ation closed it. Eighteen of these years are the public
life of Cromwell. The movement, it is true, that
seemed to begin in 1640, itself flowed from forces that
had been slowly gathering since the death of Elizabeth,
just as the Restoration closing one chapter prepared
another that ended in 1688. But the twenty years
from 1640 to 1660 mark a continuous journey, with
definite beginning and end.

Cromwell was chosen one of the two members for
the borough of Cambridge, "the greatest part of the
burgesses being present in the hall." The Short Par-
liament sat only for three weeks (April 13 to May 5),
and its first proceeding disclosed that eleven years had
not cooled the quarrel. But the new Parliament was
essentially moderate and loyal, and this, as I have said,
is another proof how little of general exasperation the
eleven years of misrule without a Parliament had pro-
duced. The veteran Coke was dead. Wentworth
from firm friend had turned fierce enemy. Sir John
Eliot was gone. The rigors of his prison-house in the
Tower could not break that dauntless spirit, but they
killed him. The king knew well what he was doing,
and even carried his vindictiveness beyond death.
Eliot's young son petitioned the king that he might
carry the remains to Cornwall to lie with those of his
ancestors. Charles wrote on the petition : "Let Sir
John Eliot's body be buried in the parish of that church
where he died" ; and his ashes lay unmarked in the
chapel of the Tower.


Online LibraryJohn MorleyOliver Cromwell → online text (page 5 of 35)