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Ecclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 2) online

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which it follows that any objection to it amongst the
Congregationalists must have been quite exceptional.
The many versions of the Psalms (forty-three at least) at
the commencement of the Civil Wars, bear witness to the
extensive delight felt at that time in the exercise of praise.
Of the primitive Protestant version of Sternhold and
Hopkins, there were then several Genevan editions ; and
certain other versions — altogether distinct from it — pre-
sent clear indications of a Puritan, and even of a Non-
conformist origin.^ Rivalry between the two Presbyterian
hymnologists, Rouse and Barton, as to the use of their
new books, published respectively in 1641 and 1644, has
been already noticed. The metrical psalms of King

' Hanhunjs Memorials, ii. 105, November, composed into Easie

III. Meter, a Song meete for Young and

* The omission of singing in Old. 1620.

public worship was continued in the Psalms of David, by George Wither,

Baptist chiu'ch at Maze Pond, 1632, printed in the Netherlands;

Southwark, until the year 1733. — dedicated to the Princess Elizabeth

Ivimey's Hist, of Baptists, Sup., 432. of Bohemia.

^ Sternhold's version was first The Psalms, in prose and metre,
publislied in 1548 or 1549, and was by H. A., Amsterdam, 1612. H. A.
dedicated to King Edward VI. means Henry Ainsworth, the Non-
Hopkins' additions ajypear in 1551. conformist.

The follo's\ing may be mentioned For a list of versions, see Lowndes

as of a Pm-itan character : — Bibliographers' Manual (Bohn's

Dod's Psalms of David; tcith a edit.)

Public Thanksgiving on the Fifth of

394 The Church of the Commonwealth. cie^a-iess.

Edward the Sixth's time — which had been enjoined under
Queen Elizabeth, and in the reigns of the early Stuarts
had been liked by the Puritans — were pronounced by
some, after the commencemenfof the Civil Wars, as " un-
couth, and unsuited to the times." But the venerable
psalter of the Reformers still, to some extent, held its
ground ; and Baxter complains that those who laid it by
used, "some one, and some another" of the existing
versions, so that there could be no uniformity at that
time in '' the service of song."^

XIII. Lenten and other Church fasts savoured of super-
stition in the esteem of the Puritans ; but, by the latter,
seasons of national humiliation Avere as solemnly ob-
served as they were frequently enjoined. The Directory
defined a fast as requiring total abstinence, not only from
food, but also from worldly labour, discourses, and thoughts,
and from all bodily delights and rich apparel ; still much
more from what is scandalous and ofi'ensive, such as
" gaudish attire, lascivious habits and gestures, and other
vanities of either sex;" but abstinence in the last parti-
culars certainly was not meant to be represented as
peculiar to days of public repentance. Much time on
these occasions was ordered to be spent in reading, hearing,
and singing in such manner so "as to quicken suitable affec-
tions, especially in prayer ;" for which latter exercise the
Assembly of Divines had been careful — as in reference to
all other kinds of worship — to provide appropriate sub-

' Humble Advice ; or, the Heads of bly of Dmnes, and, after, very much

those Things uhivh were offered to corrected and bettered in Scotland."

viany honourable Members of Par- This was Rouse's. Mr. Lathburj', to

liamcnt, by Richard Baxter, at the whom I am indebted for the refer-

End of his Sermon, December 24</(, ence, incorrectly supposes it to be

at the Abbey in Westminster. 1655. Barton's. — Hist, of Convocation,

Baxter recommends the version 510.
" first approved of by the late Asscm-

Chap. XIV.] Recreations. 395

jects. Nor were themes proper for the pulpit at such
seasons, left unmentioned by those spiritual counsellors.
Similar directions, the difference of the object being taken
into account, were also given for public thanksgivings.
And, not only when governments ordered fasts for the sins
of the people, or festivals for victories and deliverances,
but at other times, on account both of private sorrows and
private joys, did Puritan households devote whole days to
the worship of God. Scattered up and down the quaint
biographies of that era are instances of hours spent in
solitary devotion ; of lengthened preparations for the sacra-
ment; of family groups gathered upontheirlmees, bewailing
lukewarmness, declension and backsliding ; of services at
home akin to those at church, bewailing the low estate
of Christendom ; of sorrowful commemorations of public
and domestic calamities, and of intense spiritual enjoy-
ments experienced alone in the closet, or shared by all the
inmates of a dweUing ; whilst texts and psalms, religious
anecdotes and pious meditations, set their mark on the
anniversaries of births, marriages, and special inter-
ventions of providence.

XIV. Certain recreations were rigorously forbidden. '^
No wonder the theatre incurred denunciation, after '
the character given of it by Ben Jonson. Parliament
prohibited stage exhibitions ; but, in despite of the
law, they were covertly continued in certain private
mansions, much to the annoyance of the Puritan class.
A company of actors in Golding Lane were frequently
complained of, who, notwithstanding all complaints, still
persevered in their forbidden art ; but they were at length
seized in the middle of a performance, when, as it was
remarked, comedy was turned into tragedy. They were
put under a strong guard of pikes and muskets, "plundered
of all the richest of their clothes," and left "nothing but

396 The Church of the Commomoealtli. [1&19-1659.

necessaries, now" — adds the newspaper wliicli reports the
occurrence — "to act and to learn a better life."^

The festivities of New Year and of Shrovetide, of
May and Michaehnas, also shared in receiving repre-
hension ; 2 the picturesqueness of ancient customs being
overlooked amidst the cruelties and the immoralities, with
which they had become associated. Wakes were dropped ;
maypoles were pulled down ; cock-fights and bear-baitings
came to an end.^ No doubt actual wickedness and
temptations to vice thus met with a decided check, and a
surface morality for a wliile appeared ; but certain other
prohibitions of a different nature — for which, however,
occasion had been given in part, by the circumstance of
such amusements as we have just mentioned having
become connected with the observance of the seasons
prohibited — shocked the sensibilities of many truly
pious people. The Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun-
tide festivals, with other holydays, were abolished by
the ordinance of i^^^.^ This touched the conscience

' Weelcly Account, 1643, October Hyde Park; many hundred of rich

the 4th. coaches, and gallants in rich attke,

Substitutes for theatrical enter- but most sliamefiil powdered hair

tainmcnts were ingeniously con- men,and painted and spotted women,

trived under the Protectorate, of * ]\Iacaulay saj's : " If the Pmitans

wliich a curious example is afforded siippressed bull-baiting it was not

in a description of a public amuse- because it gave pain to the bull, but

mcnt upon Friday, May the 23rd, because it gave pleasure to spec-

1656, wliich I find amongst the State tators." Is this a fair statement ? I

Papers. do not discover in ScohcU any act or

2 The following extract is worth ordinance against bull-baiting at all.

notice: — There is one against cock-fighting,

May the ist, 1654, Moderate In- and the reason alleged for suppress-

teVvjencer. ing the practice is, that it disturbed

" This day was more observed by the pubUc peace, and was connected

people's going a-maying than for with tlissolute practices to the dis-

divers years past, and indeed much honour of God, The proliibition of

sin committed by wicked meetings, races, and the grounds of the pro-

with fighting, drunkenness, ribaldry, hibition, have been already noticed,

and the like. Great resort came to * Scohell.

Chap. XIV.] Recreations, 397

of devout Episcopalians, who loved to commemorate
at special seasons the great events of Christianity,
and cut deep into the heart of certain social en-
joyments, which had come to depend very much upon
the associations formed between them and the festivals of
the Church. Such unreasonable interferences produced
popular tumults. For example, the Mayor of Canterbury
would have a market held on Christmas day ; and people
who at that season desired to attend divine worship in the
Cathedral were roughly handled. The discontent which was
thus produced burst out into open revolt, and the military
were called in to put an end to the uproar, — in consequence
of which several people were committed to prison.
Puritans, however, had their periods of rest and amuse-
ment. The Ordinance for abolisliing holidays provided
that there should be allotted to scholars, apprentices,
and other servants, for recreation, on every second
Tuesday of the month, such time as' the masters could
conveniently spare. The determination of its length
would be a matter of difficulty when servant and master
were of different minds ; to meet which circumstance,
this awkward piece of legislation provided, that the next
Justice of the Peace should "have power to order and
reconcile the same." " Puhlic holidays," therefore, must
be considered as having been entirely suspended during
the Commonwealth, — a most injudicious proceeding,
which led to the worst results at the Restoration.

Ladies had their sober and stinted diversions in the
parlour and the garden ; and gentlemen had theirs at
home and in the field — all measured out sparingly, and
by scripture line and rule. The Word of God, said the
Puritan licensers, permitted shooting, (2 Samuel i. 1 8),
musical consort, (Nehemiah vii. 67), putting forth
riddles, (Judges xiv. 12), hunting of wild beasts (Canticles

398 The Church of the Commomvealth. [i649-i658,

ii. 15), searching out, or the contemplation of the works
of God, (i Kings iv. ^S)- This enumeration of amuse-
ments allowed 1)}^ ScrijDture seemed to sanction certain old
Enghsh field sports, to concede the pleasures of the chase,
and to permit ladies from the manor-house and the castle
to ride out a-hawking over hill and dale.^

XV. It is a mistake to suppose that the Independents
of the Commonwealth were very ascetic. Even the
habits of the Presbyterians in this respect have been
considerably exaggerated. They were by no means so
rigid and demure as prejudiced writers are wont to re-
present. They did not look so melancholy, nor dress in
such ridiculous garbs, nor act in such absurd ways, as
believers in Hudibras imagine. Many were gentlemen
of graceful bearing, polite demeanour, and genial sym-
pathies. They had amongst them some of the noblest
blood of England, and they included large numbers of
genteel descent. Such persons, with multitudes of yeomen
of ruddy countenances, would crack a joke, and ring an
honest laugh, as they walked through trim flower gardens
or rode out to their field sports. But the Independents,
perhaps, advanced still further in conformity to the out-
ward world. 2

' The following is extracted from mantel-piece a pair of new cards,

the biography of John Bruen. — Non- nobody being there I opened them,

conformity in Cheshire, 56 : — and took out the four knaves and

" Master Done being young and burnt them, and so laid them to-

youthly, yet very tractable, could gether again ; and so for want of such

not well away with the strict obser- knaves his gaming was marred, and

vation of the Lord's day, where- never did he play in my house, for

upon we did all conspire to do him auglit I ever heard, any more."

good, ten of my family speaking one Puritans played at billiards, bowls,

after anotlier, and myself last, for the and shuffle board. — See Newcome's

sanctifying of the Lord's day. After Diary.

which he did very cheerfully yield ' A cuiious description of the pre-

himself ; blessed be God." . . . valent fashions of the day is found

" I [John Bruen] coming once into in Fox's Journal, i. 274:—

his chamber and finding over the People " must be in the fashion of

Chap. XIV.] Social Life of the Independents. 399

Country life in the old mansions and manor houses,
with the exception of certain '' superstitions," re-
mained much the same as in the days before the
wars. And city life in the main ran on as it did
before the fall of monarchy ; merchants and tradesmen
lived as of yore ; and mayors and corporations feasted as
they had ever done in guildhalls. Wives were handed
by wealthy husbands, and maidens by ambitious lovers,
up staircases of polished oak, to drawing rooms, profusely
carved, and full of furniture curiously fashioned. The
dininoj-room wore an air of enticins^ comfort, and the
hearth blazed, as family and friends sat down to a well-
spread table after a long grace. Probably the feast did not
break up until a godly minister had expounded a chapter
and offered a prayer. And if the guests did not quaff as
much sack as some of their royalist friends, and although
they did abstain from drinking healths, they were not more
addicted to asceticism than excess ; all this it would be
idle to mention, but for the preposterous notions so widely
prevalent, that the Independents and other " sects " of
the Commonwealth were an exceptional order of beings,
living somewhere quite beyond the outskirts of civilized

the world, else tliey are not in of the eye, the lust of the flesh, or the

esteem; else they shall not be re- pride of life ? Likewise the women

spected, if they have not gold or having their gold, their patches on

silver upon then- backs, or if the their faces, noses, cheeks, foreheads ;

hair be not powdered. But if he having their rings on their fingers,

have store of ribands hanging about wearing gold, having their cufis

his waist, and at his knees, and in double, under and above, like unto

his hat, of divers colours, red, white, a butcher with his wliite sleeves ;

black, or yellow, and his hair be having their ribands tied about their

powdered, then he is a brave man; hands, and three or four gold laces

then he is accepted, he is no Quaker, about their clothes, this is no Quaker,

because he hath ribands on liis back, say they. This attire pleaseth the

and belly, and knees, and his hair world ; and if they cannot get these

powdered. Tliis is the array of the things, they are discontented."
world. But is not this from the lust

400 The Church of the Commoimealtli. [leig-iess.

life. If their connexion with Cromwell's Court some-
what affected the social habits of Independents, and
spread amongst them rather more of indulgence in luxury
than might be witnessed in other Puritan dwelUngs,
it should be stated, that before any such influence
existed, even amidst the early controversies between
Presbyterians and Independents, the latter were charged
with worldly conformity. They w^ere reproached for
riding about in coaches and four on the Lord's day, and
so acting the gallant, that they might have been taken
'' for roarers and ruffians, rather than saints." They
wore cuffs and silver spurs, and gold upon their clothes.
Their houses were furnished like those of noblemen and
peers. More plate was in their cupboards than in the
palaces of grandees. Their fare was delicious, set out with
" such curiosity of cookery," and all sorts of wines and
delicacies.^ This picture is connected with accusations of
unkind conduct towards those of " the presbyter way,"
which clearly prove the animus of the writer, and justify
us in toning down considerably the colours in wliich he
has painted the Independents. But, after due abatement,
enough remains to shew that they were less precise in
their habits, and more conformed to the fashion of the
age in dress, equipage, and entertainments, than some of
their Puritan contemporaries.

XVI. ThelndependentProtector's Court, whilst eminently
virtuous and religioup., exhibited also a degree of magnifi-
cence, little inferior to that of any court in Christendom.
Louis the Fourteenth would not have found in the apart-
ments at WliitehaU splendour equal to that which blazed at
Versailles ; but the envoy of Sweden, when he visited
England in the summer of 1655, beheld a scene of

' Bast^\ick, quoted in llanhunjs Mcmuriah, iii. 8i.

chap.xi\r.] Cromwell's Court. 401

pomp and magnificence which filled him with perfect
sm-prise. Soldiers were drawn up at the entrance ;
guards in livery lined the stairs ; the banqueting house
was hung with arras ; and multitudes of ladies waited
in the galleries, to receive the Ambassador and his
attendants, consisting of " two hundred persons, generally
proper handsome men, and fair-haired ; they were all in
mourning, very genteel." At the upper end of the
room stood his Highness, with a chair of state behind
him, and divers of his council and servants, the master of
the ceremonies regulating the interview. His Highness did
not put off his hat till the Swede had put off his, and
whenever the latter named the king his master, or Sweden,
or the Protector, or England, he moved his hat. And,
if he used the Divine name, or spoke of the good of
Christendom, he put off his hat very low, the Protector
assuming " like postures of civility."^

As an illustration of the social life of Whitehall, an
amusing incident may be related respecting one of the
clergy in attendance upon Oliver, indicative of those
flirtations which neither clerical office nor the strictest
forms of religious profession can banish either from
royal courts or from the scenes of humble life. Jeremiah
White, of Trinity College, Cambridge, a handsome young
man, noted for " facetiousness," and at the time enjoying
a court chaplainship, became an admirer of the lively
Lady Frances Cromwell. He was one day found by his
Highness on his knees, kissing the lady's hand. "What
is the meaning of that posture," the grave soldier sternly
enquired. " May it please your Highness," replied the
chaplain, " I have a long time courted that young gentle-
woman there, my lady's woman, and cannot prevail. I

' WhiteJockes Memorials, 628.

402 The Chirch of the Commonwealth. [i&io-i658.

was therefore humbly praying her ladyship to intercede
for me." The Protector demanded of the girl what she
meant, by refusing the honour which Mr. A^liite proposed.
She, too glad of the opportunity, curtsied and said, " If
the reverend gentleman had any such wish, she could not
refuse." " Sayst thou so, my lass," answered Cromwell,
" call Goodwin, this business shall be done presently be-
fore I go out of the room." The couple were married,
and the bride received from the Protector five hundred
pounds dowry. ^

Besides Jeremiah AVliite, Cromwell had other chap-
lains, Hugh Peters, WilHam Hook, Nicholas Lockier,
and Peter Sterry. John Howe, as already noticed,
was also of the number ; and in his letters there are
found allusions to the moral and religious character
of the Protector's Court, of so much importance
that we cannot pass them over. Howe asked
Baxter, what he conceived a chaplain ought to do
in the way of urging upon the Government a redress
of spiritual evils ; how far it became him by public
preacliing, as well as by private exhortation, to bear
witness against the neglect of such redress — supposing
that those persons who were in power did not con-
ceive that any interference of this description came
within the range of their duty, or excused themselves
because they had to attend to other afifairs of still greater
moment. What the writer exactly meant by these
expressions is not very clear, whether by *' interference"
he intended merely moral interference, respecting which
there ought to have been no hesitation ; or beyond this,

' Oldmixon's History of England, Mrs. "NVliite was present, who did

426. not contradict it. but owned there

" I knew them both," he says, was something in it."
" and heard this story told when

Chap. XIV.] CromweU's Court. 403

some sort of legislative interference, touching which, there
might be doubts in the minds of Cromwell and his State
Counsellors. The following passages had better be
given literally : —

" My time will not serve me long ; for I think I shall
be constrained in conscience (all things considered) to
return, ere long, to my former station. I left it, I think,
upon very fair terms. For, first, when I settled there,
I expressly reserved to myself a liberty of removing, if
the providence of God should invite me to a condition of
more serviceableness anywhere else — which liberty I
reckon I could not have parted with if I would, unless I
could have exempted myself from God's dominion. My
call hither was a work I thought very considerable — the
setiing-up of the worship and discipline of Christ in this
family, wherein I was to have joined with another, called
upon the same account. I had made, as I supposed, a
competent provision for the place I left. But now at
once I see the designed work here hopelessly laid aside.
We affect here to live in so loose a way, that a man
cannot fix upon any certain charge to carry towards them
as a minister of Christ should ; so that it were as hope-
ful a course to preach in a market, or in any assembly
met by chance, as here."

"Here my influence is not like to be much (as it is
not to be expected a raw young man should be much con-
siderable among grandees) ; my work little ; my success
hitherto little ; my hopes, considering the temper of tliis
place, very small ; especially coupling it with the temper
of my spirit, which, did you know it, alone would, I
think, greatly alter your judgment of this case. I am
naturally bashful, pusillanimous, easily brow-beaten,
solicitous about the fitness or unfitness of speech or
silence in most cases, afraid (especially having to do

D D 2

40-4 The CJiurch of the Commomvealth. [iwg-iess.

with those who are constant in the ' arcana impcyii ') of
being accounted uncivil, etc. ; and the distemper being
natural (most intrinsically) is less curable. You can
easily guess how little considerations are like to do in
such a case. I did not, I confess, know myself so well
as, since my coming up, occasion and reflection have
taught me to do. I find now my hopes of doing good
will be among people where I shall not be so liable to
be overawed. I might have known this sooner and have
prevented the trouble I am now in. Though the case of
my coming up hither, and continuance, difi'er much, so
as that I can't condemn the former, yet I more incline
to do that than justify the latter."^

The word " loose," used by John Howe, must not be
strictly interpreted. If licentiousness had prevailed at
Wliitehall, he certainly would have used stronger
language, and would not have remained in the place a
single hour after making such a discovery. The reputa-
tion for virtue of Cromwell's family and Court has never
been impeached. Malignant slanders reflecting on their
morals, and circulated by enemies after Cromwell's death,
have never received any support from ascertained facts, or
received any credence from unprejudiced historians ; but
luxury, extravagance, practical jokes, and escapades of
the kind indicated in the case of Jeremiah White, there
undoubtedly were ; and it is to these things, probably,
that the strongest expression in Howe's letter refers ;
whilst the rest of his complaints relate to irregularity in
worship, and to habits unfriendly to vital religion. At
the same time it must be remembered, that the character
of Baxter's correspondent was one of saintly holiness ;
and that, beheld from the level of his eminently

' Bayers' Life of Hone, 69, 72.

Chap. XIV.] The End of Life. 405

spiritual life, many things would appear deplorable,
which common persons are wont to pass by without the
utterance of any, even the slightest, reprehension.

XVII. Before terminating the review of the private and
social life of the period, as it existed amongst religious
people, we must touch upon those observances of a sacred
kind which were connected with the close of human

One section in the Directory is " Concerning visitation
of the sick." It is observed that times of affliction are
special opportunities put into the minister's hands to
communicate a word in season to weary souls, and topics
of spiritual address and advice are largely suggested for
his guidance in conducting conversation in the chamber
of disease and death. The minister is directed to
admonish the patient to set his house in order, to make

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonEcclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 2) → online text (page 32 of 46)