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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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hair and moustache are getting gray;" "massive stature ;
big massive head, of somewhat leonine aspect — wart
above the right eye-brow; nose of considerable blunt
aquiline proportions ; strict yet copious lips, full of all
tremulous sensibilities, and also, if need were, of all
fierceness and rigours; deep, loving eyes, call them
grave, call them stern, looking from under those
craggy brows as if in life-long sorrow."^

As the Protector returned to Whitehall, the Lord
Mayor, uncovered, carried the sword before him ; and
in the banqueting-house, Mr. Lockier, the Protector's

' They are printed in the Pad. Scotland, and Ireland, and the do-

Hist., iii. 141 7. They bear this minions thereunto belonging."

simple title: "The Government of ^ Carlyle,u.. 227.
the Commonwealth of England,


Tilt' Church of the Comrnonirealth. [I653, December.

chaplain, delivered an exhortation; after which the Lord
Mayor, the Aldermen, and the Judges ah departed

A very wonderful day's work was that of the i6th of
December.^ It was an act of usurpation beyond all

' Whitcloclie, f,-ji.

^ The Acts and Resolves of Par-
liament for taldng the Engagement
were repealed the 1 9th of January,
1653 4, and the repeal was confirmed
in 1656. — SeoheU, 277.

The following letter is an example
of the way in which Presbyterian
ministers availed themselves of this
change to recover benefices forfeited
by refusing the Engagement : —
" Mr. Sympson,

" If the order (by colour of
wliich you invaded my chiu-ch) did
give you (which I confess I could
never understand) any power to do
so, the late revolution hath made it
void and null ; and the Lord Pro-
tector having taken to liis sword a
sceptre, and consented and sworn
to govern according to law, and not
otherwise, I conceive it to be my

duty to let you

licrebj^ know that

I am legal incumbent of the place ;
in pursuance whereof, I am resolved
to retui'n on Lord's-day afternoon,
at the usual hour of public worship,
to my own church, and therefore
desu-e you to cease your future pains
in that place, and signify so much
to your friends, that we may have
no disturbance : and if j'ou conceive
you have any right in the place,
commence j'oiu" action ; you shall
receive in any court of judicature a
plea from him who is resolved to
dcicnil his own just ]iriviiegc, and

give an account of his reasons to
the world. " Zach. Crofton.

"The next Lord's-daj', being the
2nd of August, I intend to preach at
my own church between one and
two of the clock, afternoon." — State

Amongst petitions and other papers
in the Record Office, Dum. Interre;/.,
vol. 677, 371, is the following from
the Earl of Worcester, shewing the
style in which the Protector was
addressed : —
" May it please j^our Excellency,

" The obstacle which Mndered
many your Excellency's just and
laudable intentions for the common
welfare being now by God's provi-
dence and yoiu- Excellency's im-
paralleled endeavours removed, I
make these my most humble ad-
dresses to your Excellency (to whose
ears were my condition rightly made
known) , not doubting of redi-ess, and
in deed and effectually to receive
what the late Council of State put
me in daily hopes [of], which my
humble petition will in part declare.
For I can aver that no subject in
England hath been so hardly dealt
^\•ith ; but having recourse to the
fountain head of mercy and noble-
ness, whose crystallme waters may
now run without interruption, my
heart is elevated with hopes, not
only to receive obligations there-
unto, but also an ojiportunity to
make evident how mucli I am am-

Chap. III.] State of A fairs at the Time. 75

doubt, yet one which it would be pedantic to criticise
according to constitutional rules. For when a house is
catching fire, or a vessel is on the edge of a rock, people
in their senses do not expect that a strong man, who can
extinguish the flame, or steer the ship into open waters,
should stand on ceremony and w^ait for red-tape formali-
ties. A crisis had come, such as must come in the wake
of great revolutions, when, however firmly we may main-
tain Locke's principles of the origin of government, w^e find
people in such a state of perfect helplessness, and former
rulers so utterly destitute of power to rule, so incapable,
so inevitably rushing to destruction, dragging the whole
country along with them — that in mercy to mankind we
feel all theories woven of the wisest webs must be laid
aside, and a competently skilful hand be allowed to gather
up the scattered threads in such fashion as it may be
able. Public affairs had now reached such a crisis that the
alternative was a Protector or destruction, Cromwell or
chaos. The fire long kindling now at length burst into
a blaze, and there was only one man who could put an
end to the conflagration. The ship was within an inch
of foundering, and there remained but one pilot who had
the power of steering her off the rocks.

The Church, it should be recollected, had not ceased
to be a State Church. The constant discussion of its
affairs by Parliament and the Council of State
implied its continued subjection to secular control.
No scheme of severance had been propounded, though
certain proposals had been made which might seem to
involve such a result. However desirable it may appear
to some of our readers that the civil and ecclesiastical

bilious to appear your Excellency's There are several other petitions

most humble and obliged servant, from tliis Earl and Iris Coimtess.

" Worcester."

70 The Church of the Commonwealth. [less.

powers in a country should stand each on its own basis,
and not interfere with one another's action ; whatever
anticipations may be formed of a new and better era of
Christian civihzation, to be inaugurated when a separa-
tion of the Church from the State shall take place, subject
to the authority of New Testament teaching, aided by the
lights of experience through the exercise of political
sagacity, and under the inspiration of Christian disin-
terestedness ; yet every one must see that the time had
not then come for such a revolution. Such a revolution
involved not only the settlement of questions touching
ecclesiastical property and revenue, but also the deter-
mination of two other points, namely, that religion
should be left to its own unfettered exercise, and that
no man should be disqualified by his theological opinions
for the discharge of the offices and the enjo^-ment of the
honours of the State. Now, without doing injustice to
the character of the Little Parliament, we certainly may
go so far as to say that it never indicated the possession
of that clearsightedness, that deep wisdom, and that
broad sympathy which are essential to the satisfactory
solution of the practical problems included in the
change just indicated. The members had neither the
intellectual nor the moral qualifications requisite for the
task. It was in those days more difficult than it is at
present to draw the line where free religious action comes
to an end, and something else quite different from it
begins ; for millenarian opinions ran over into Fifth
Monarchy schemes, and the Dutch wars had become
mixed up in men's brains with the dominion of the
saints. The Little Parliament lacked the mental power
necessary in those days for carrying out the doctrines
of voluntaryism, even had they understood them. But
thoy did not understand them. Had they done so, they

Chap. III.] State of Affairs at the Time. 77

would not have clung to the idea m any form, of the
State supporting the Christian ministry, nor would they
have cherished the conviction that certain theological
qualifications are indispensable for the discharge of
political trusts.

And further, if the Little Parliament had been com-
posed of the wisest of mortals, and had plainly and
skilfully propounded a system of pure voluntaryism, such
as is ably and successfully advocated in our own time,
still, with the Presbyterians all against them ; with many
of the Independents against them ; and with the Episco-
palians also against them ; in short, snth. the bulk of
the wealth, of the intelligence, and of the power of the
country against them — how useless would have been
their attempts to work out the measure. Common
sense teaches, and voluntaryism in its very nature im-
plies, that before it can be established as the exclusive
method of dealing with spiritual interests, a very large
number of those who have to adopt it must be con-
vinced of its wisdom. And as to the alternative of
revising the Establishment, and placing it upon
grounds adapted to the needs of existing society,
that also was an undertaking which, it is needless to
repeat, the Little Parliament did not accomplish, and
one, too, with which the whole history of that Assembly
proved that it was utterly incompetent to deal. The
whole web of ecclesiastical affairs had raveled out, and
it devolved on a more than ordinarily skilful hand to
gather up the threads and arrange them in some sort of

Cromwell ever shewed himself to be a practical man,
by no means wedded to any fine-spun theory. No ideal
republic, such as was conceived by Plato or by Harrington,
floated before his imagination. In tliis respect a marked

78 The Church of the Commonwealth. [lesa.

distinction existed between him and his contemporaries of
the philosophical schools which were led by Sir Harry Vane
and Algernon Sidney ; and, as in pm-e politics, so in eccle-
siastical politics, he aimed simply at accomplishino; what
he saw to be practicable. His strong religious feelings,
the mystic cast of his piety, his enthusiastic faith in
prayer and providence, never turned him aside from plain
paths of human action, where he could get common
people to walk and work beside him. Whatever idea
he might have had as to what was best in itself, and under
other circumstances than those of England in his own
day, then rocking with the throes of revolution, certainly
the plan which he adopted was not that of attempting
the exclusive establishment of a voluntary system of
supporting religion. He saw that to alienate church pro-
perty from sacred uses — had he wished to do so — would
arouse against him at once all the Presbyterians of the
country, and would give them a rallying point and a
battle cry quite sufficient to render them irresistible.
He Imew, that supported in this respect by Episco-
palians, and not without sympathy amongst Independents,
the Presbyterians would have protested against spoliation,
and would have contended for the inviolateness of tithe
property with a temper too fierce and with an amount of
influence too strong for any government to resist with suc-
cess. He perceived the wisdom of conciliating the Presby-
terian party, and even on that ground he would shrink from
provoking them by the confiscation of all church revenues.
His keen eye also discerned such a spirit in some of the sects,
such violent anti- social principles abroad, such elements
seething in the cauldron of religious excitement, that he
felt it would not be safe to leave all theological teachers
at that time to do and say just what they liked without
any sort of legal restraint. The liberty which he believed

Chap. III.] Croimvell's Policy. 79

it jiTst and right to concede in reference to the discussion
of simple questions of divinity, he did not consider it
just and right to afford to all sorts of semi-political
agitations; which, under the cover of prophetical study
and of transcendental schemes of society, directly tended
to overthrow all law and order, and with law and order,
the very liberty which such enthusiasts themselves really
desired to enthrone.

What, then, was the kind of National Church which
Cromwell's practical sagacity led him to establish ?
Though he might not work according to any definite
theory, and was mainly prompted by the quick insight
of his own genius, yet there could not but be some
principles lying at the basis of his operations. Three
politico-ecclesiastical theories of union may be entertained:
that of the Church's mistress-ship over the State, that of
the Church's servitude to the State, and that of the
Church's marriage with the State. What the Lord
Protector aimed at accomplishing appears far removed
from the first of these. He would not allow^ Presbyters,
or Pastors, or Preachers of any kind, any more than
Anglican Priests, to lord it over the people. He would
carry the staff in his own hands. At the same time,
he did not put the Church in perfect servitude.
Though Erastian in one way, his method of eccle-
siastical government does not appear to have been
so in another. Whilst the appointment and recog-
nition of ministers receiving State pay were placed
under the authority of persons who owed their
official position to State appointment, yet the inner
working, the worship, and the discipline of Churches
continued to be left free to a very large extent. Perhaps,
on the whole, Cromwell's Broad Church embodied more
of the idea of the marriage of the Church with the

80 The Church of the CummoinceaUh. [lesa.

State than any other EstahHshment which ever

His ecclesiastical policy rested on five principles : —
State recognition, State control, State support. State
protection, and State penalties. How those principles
were developed in Cromwell's administration \\i\l be seen
in the next chapter.

• I have honestly endeavoured to add that notliing said . in these
understand and describe tliis crisis pages is to be taken as inconsistent
in the Commonwealth affairs, iin- -nith a fii'm behef that the voluntary-
influenced by any ecclesiastical support of religion is the Divine law
opinions of my own. But I must of Christianity.


TO prevent confusion, let it be distinctly stated at
once, that in tracing the form which the new
ecclesiastical establishment assumed under the impress
of Cromwell's genius, we confine ourselves in this
chapter to the legislation of nine months; consisting
of those ordinances which w^ere issued between the end of
the Little Parliament, in December, 1653, and the open-
ing of the first Protectorate Parliament, in September,
1654. During this period, the foundations of the Pro-
tector's ecclesiastical policy were laid.

I. State Recognition. — The articles of government — the
conception and inspiration of which must be regarded as
proceeding from Cromwell — distinctly declared "that the
Christian religion, as contained in the Scriptures, be
held forth and recommended as the public profession of
these nations."^ Christianity being thus recognized as
part and parcel of the law of the land, the sanctions of
reHgion were introduced at the inauguration of the Pro-
tector ; the solemnities of worship and of preaching were
connected with all special public acts ; and the exercises of
devotion constantly accompanied the ordinary business of

' Ai-ticle XXXV., Pari. Hist., iii. 1425.

82 The Church of the Commonwealth. [1654.

Parliament. The State continued to recognize religion by
the appointment of fast days, which were of fi-eqiient occur-
rence ; whilst the Scotch brethren objected to this exer-
cise of civil authority as an Erastian intrusion into the
spiritual realm. ^ Preachers, both Presbyterian and
Independent, were appointed on these occasions ; and a
fast day sometimes was solemnized by a service which
lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until four in the

By an express article, all who professed the Roman
Catholic religion were disabled from voting, as well as
from being elected ; and as the Act which had been passed
against execrable opinions, treated as culprits and sub-
jected to penalties those who opposed Christianity, it
virtually deprived all such persons of the electoral fran-
chise. Infidels and heretics, also, who attacked or
undermined the foundations of the Christian faith, for-
feited the rights of denizenship. But these laws did not
affect the social position of any indi\dduals who professed
Protestantism in any of its usually-recognized forms of
orthodoxy. All the "sects" were accepted as citizens.
So were the Presbyterians. And, although Prelacy was
forbidden, there was nothing which could legally prevent
an Episcopalian from going to the poll to give or receive
the vote of a freeman. Still, we must not forget that,
since the Common Prayer-book had been prohibited, any
one who persisted in using its formularies might have
both his franchise and his freedom brought into peril.^
From these facts, it is evident that England under the

' " The clergy in Scotland refused ' Harris, in lus Life of CromweU,

to observe the fast day ordered by 432, on Clarendon's authoritj-, says

the Protector, it being their principle, that Cromwell, by a declaration,

not to receive any directions for the rendered all Cavaliers incapable of

keeping fasts from the civil magis- being elected, or of giving a vote,
trates." — Whitcluckc, 607.

Chap. IV.] State Control. 83

Protectorate was, in theory, a religious Commonwealth ;
that the State possessed a spiritual as well as a secular
character ; that Christianity was considered essential to
the welfare of society ; and that an irreligious man was
not regarded as a faithful subject. But this theory of
the Commonwealth as a Christian State must not be
confounded with the theory of the National Church as
connected with the Commonwealth. The lines of limita-
tion in the two cases were not the same. Considerable
differences existed between the Christianity which entitled
all its disciples to the franchise of tlie citizen and the
Christianity which entitled its ministerial advocates to
the support of the State. What those differences were
will be indicated as we proceed.

II. State Control. — The laws made certain distinctions
between what was civil and what was sacred. They followed
the early legislation of the Long Parliament by with-
drawing all secular matters from ecclesiastical authority.
Wills received careful attention from the Little Parlia-
ment in 1653, when commissioners were appointed to
superintend that business, and to grant administrations
'* in the late provinces of Canterbury and York." Their
powers were defined, and the probate fees to be taken by
registrars were, after the payment of expenses, to be
appropriated to the support of the navy. The Act of
1653 was revived in 1654, and more commissioners were
added to the existing? number.^

* ScohelJ, 232, 288; CromweUian found in one of the indexes: —

Diary, i. cxviii., 17 ; ii. 253. " Csetera ab hoc anno desiderantiu*

Respecting the administration of testamenta. Caepit jam Cromwelli

wills during the Commonwealth, we usurpatoris istius ambitio rabide

subjoin the following illustrations: — ssevire; cujus sub vexillo grassa-

In relation to a chasm in the bantiu- undique seditio, -sdolentia, re-
Registry of Norndch between 1652 bellio, sacrilegium, et quod (horren-
and 1660, the following passage is dum dictu est) regicidium. Huic
G 2

84 The Church of the Commonwealth. [les*.

The main control over the Church consisted, not in any
Act of Uniformity — nor in the estabhshment of a parti-
cular creed — nor in the maintenance of a simple mode of
worship, but in the appointment of a spiritual tribunal,
invested wdth the power of determining who were fitting
persons to fulfil the Christian ministry. In the month of
March, 1653-4, an ordinance appeared,^ reciting that
there had been no certain method adopted for supplying
vacancies with able ministers, in consequence of which
the rights of patrons had been prejudiced, and "weak,
scandalous, popish, and ill-alfected persons had mtruded
themselves, or been brought in, to the great grief and
trouble of the good people of this nation." As a remedy,
it was ordained that every person presented to a benefice,
or appointed to a lecture, should be approved by certain
Commissioners who were named for that purpose. No
mention is made of any standard of faith, of any mode
of worship, or of any scheme of polity. Episcopacy,
' Presb3'terianism, Independency, anti-P£edobaptism — in

sequuta sunt, confusio in ecclesia, in of records belonging to the late

republica militum insolentia, in pa- Prerogative Court ; and also for the

rochiis factio, in familiis atheisraus. records of the New Court for Pro-

Et plebs miserrima cum maximo bate of Wills ; and for the erecting

suo damno et detrimento (apud and establishing of an office there,

nescio quae tribunalia Londinensia) and fitting places for the officers

ad Cromwelli libitum, coacta est se and clerks belonging tliereunto, in

sistere ad testamenta proband." — such manner as the said judges, or

Nicolas s Notitia Hist., i8i. any of them, shall direct."

Extract from Council Books, " Aj/^'h^ /?«?/, 1655, p. 3, No. 46.

14th July, 1653 : — — Mainby. Salary as a Commis-

" That it be refen-ed to the Judges sioner for Probate of AVills. '

for Probate of Wills to appoint such " Patent Roll, 1654, p. 4, No. 46.

persons as they shall thiuk fit to be — Lucy." Similar entry,

keeper of the records belongmg to Amongst Petitions and Reports

that court. Interey., W.Z. No. 246, there is a

" Tliat all those rooms formerly paper respecting probates, dated 9th

used for, or called the Star Chamber of January, 1655.

rooms, be appointed for the keeping ' Scohell, 279.

Chap. IV.] State Control. 85

short, particular forms of Christianity are entirely un-
named and unnoticed. In general terms, power was vested
in the Commissioners : — they were to grant admission to
the ministry; their certificate being a sufficient induc-
tion ; but a vote of exclusion did not acquire validity
unless nine members were present at the time when the
vote was passed. Appointments made by these Commis-
douers did not interfere with the rights of patronage.
Ihey had no authority to dispose of Church benefices,
or to elect lecturers ; but only to determine upon the
qualifications of those whom the patrons presented or the
people chose. Nor did the law construe the decision of
these judges "to be any solemn or sacred setting apart
of a person to any particular office in the ministry." In
short, the Commissioners formed a board, and nothing
more, for the examination of persons who presented them-
selves for the ministerial office. So far, it bore a likeness
to the Assembly of Divines, for they had exercised similar
functions in the examination of clergymen ; but then
they had been more numerous, and had been wont to con-
sult Church standards and formularies for the guidance
of their judgment. Nothing of the sort limited the power
of the new Commissioners, and, moreover, their unfettered
power was lodged in comparatively few hands. Some
creed, statute, canon, or estabhshed usage, had in all
similar cases been recognized as a rule of action ; but
in this instance everything was left for determination by
the wisdom or the will of irresponsible functionaries.^ No

* Yet they were constantly sub- " October 5th, 1654. — Wliereas, by

ject to the control of the Protector a late ordinance of liis Highness

and Council of State ; these without the Lord Protector and the Council,

being formally constituted a court passed the 2nd of December last, it

of appeal, were so in fact. Take is ordained that the Commissioners

the following instance from the for Approbation of Public Preachers

council books : — shall not give admission to any

The Church of the Commomcealth.


distinct articles of faith were prescribed. No subscription
whatever was enforced.^ The only way to form an idea
of the character of a Church so circumstanced is to infer
what it must have been from the known opinions and
characters of such powerful officers. The Commission
was composed of men of very different characters. Some
had much prejudice and party spirit, with little judgment,
and less charity. No confidence could be placed in Hugh
Peters, and in others of a similar stamp ; but there were
amongst the members individuals of great wisdom and
large benevolence — such as Manton, Goodwin, Owen,
and many more. Presbyterians, Independents, and Bap-
tists were of the number ; and, so far, the constitution
of the tribunal permitted access to benefices by ministers

person formerly sequestered from
any ecclesiastical benefice, or pro-
motion for delinquency, until, by
experience of conformity and sub-
mission to the present government,
his Highness and the Council shall

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonEcclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 46)