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Ecclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 1) online

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of it in Scotland." " It is as free for
us to give our intei-pretation of the
latitude or nearness of uniformity
intended, as for our brethren."

2 The following passages illustrate
the state of public feeling in refer-
ence to the Covenant : —

" Men cry shame on the Covenant.
Those that took it down cast it up
again, and those that refuse it have
given a world of arguments that it
is unreasonable, which arguments
our Assembly, like dull, ignorant

rascals, never answered. I know,
my Lords, many of our Mends never
took this oath, but they refused it
out of mere conscience." .... "I
hold the Covenanters extremely rea
sonable. Though some malignants
take it, yet many refuse it ; and, as
some who love lis do hate the Cove-
nant, so some who hate us do take
it. Yet our friends who hate it do
love to force others to it, for their
hatred to malignants is more than
to the Covenant ; and, as the one
takes it to save his estate, so do
others give it to make him lose his
estate. They both love the estate,
and both hate the Covenant." — A
learned Speech spoken in the House
of Peers by the Had of Pembroke
and Montgomery upon the zSth July
last, taken out of Michael Ouhls-
tvorth's own Copy. State Papers,
" All this while I did not take the

chap, an.] The Solemn League and Covenant. 325

zealots were able, they enforced it rigorously ; but in
unsettled times the imposition of anything of the kind
is sure to be encumbered by great difficulties. Some even
who held Presbyterian opinions disliked this form of ex-
pressing them ; and we find that Richard Baxter prevented
his flock at Kidderminster from submitting to the Cove-
nant, lest, as he said, it should ensnare their consciences ;
and also he prevailed on the ministers of Worcestershire
not to offer it to their people.

The truth is, that while the Covenant in Scotland was\
a reality, inasmuch as it sprung from the hearts of the
people, and expressed a sentiment to which they were
devoted, the case was far otherwise in our own country.
Imported here, it never rallied around it the sympathies
of the nation. Exasperating High Churchmen, it did
not please the Puritans. Many could not go so far as it
went and many were anxious to go much further still.
Moderate Episcopalians were reluctant to adopt it,
because they were not prepared for the total abolition of
Episcopacy ; and, on the other hand, many Independents
disliked it, because its condemnation of schism, they
knew, was regarded in some quarters as a condemnation
of themselves. They were advocates for a liberty and a
toleration to which the spirit of the Covenant was tho-
roughly opposed. That the Scotch should insist upon
its adoption by the English, and that the rulers of this

National Covenant, not because I never offered to me, every one think-

refused to do, for I would have made ing it was impossible I could get

no bones to take, swear, and sign it, any charge, unless I had taken the

and observe it too, for I had then a Covenant either in Scotland or Eng-

principle, having not yet studied a land." — Sir James 'Turner's Memoirs

better one, that I wronged not my of his own Life and Times, published

conscience in doing any thing I was by the Bannatyne Club, 16.
commanded to do by those whom I Turner was a Royalist,

served. But the truth is, it was

326 The Church of the Civil Wars. [1&13, September.

country should accept the condition, and endeavour to

' enforce it upon all their subjects, was an unfortunate

mistake, destined to be attended in some instances

by failure, in others by mischief, in all by disappoint-

: ment.

The adoption of the Covenant by the Westminster
Assembly will be in the reader's remembrance ; and to
the subsequent proceedings of that venerable body his
attention is now to be directed .

The Divines first met in Henry the Seventh's Chapel.
That stone building, pleasantly cool in summer, became
too cold for them as autumn drew on. They then, by
order of Parliament, adjourned to the Jerusalem Cham-
ber. 1 " What place more proper for the building of
Zion, as they propounded it," asks Fuller, "than the
Chamber of Jerusalem, the fairest of the Dean's lodgings
where King Henry IV. died?" Romance and poetry,
through the pens of Fabian and Shakespeare, have thrown
their hues over this memorable room ; other and higher
associations now belong to it as the birth-place of a
confession of faith still dear to the Church of Scotland,
and as the spot where the Puritan advocates of religious
liberty fought one of its early and most earnest

The Chamber adjoins the Abbey, at the south corner
of the west front. There is a painted window on the
north side, and two plain ones give light on the west.
The walls are hung with tapestry, representing the Cir-
cumcision, the Adoration of the Magi, and, apparently,

1 Journals. Sept. 21st — It was re- shall, in respect of the coldness of
solved by the Commons : That the the said chapel, have power to ad-
Assembly of godly Divines, who, by journ themselves to the Jerusalem
Ordinance, July ist, 1643, met in Chamber, in the College of West-
King Henry the Seventh's Chapel, minster.

cbaii. xiil] The Westminster Assembly. 327

the Passage through the Wilderness. A portrait of
Richard II. — generally considered the oldest extant pic-
ture of an English sovereign — hangs at the south end of
the apartment ; and a curiously-carved chimney-piece,
put up by Williams, Dean of Westminster, spans the
fire-place. The room was rather different in appearance
at the time of the Assembly. The situation of the fire-
place was the same, and the mantel-piece had but just
been erected. The arras, however, was brought into the
Chamber after the coronation of James II., on which
occasion it had been used in the Abbey ; and the portrait
of Richard II. did not come there till 1755, when it was
removed from the Abbey choir. 1

Baillie paints the place and the Assembly as he saw it.
Near the door, and on both sides, were stages of seats ;
the Prolocutor's chair being at the upper end, "on a
frame." In chairs before him were the assessors. Before
them, through the length of the room, ran a long table,
at which sat the secretaries, taking notes. The house,
says Baillie, was well hung with tapestry, and a good fire
blazed on the hearth — "which is some dainty at London."
Opposite the table, to the right of the president, on the
lowest of the three or four rows of forms, appeared the
Scotch Commissioners, Baillie himself a conspicuous indi-
vidual of the group. Behind were Parliament members
of the Assembly. On the left, running from the upper
end to the fire-place, and at the lower end, till they
came round to the seats of the Scotchmen, were forms for
the Divines, which they occupied as they pleased, each,
however, commonly retaining the same spot. From the
chimney-piece to the door was an open passage ; the

1 For some of this information I am indebted to the kindness of the
Dean of Westminster^ ^T^^—Cfc^y/,

328 The Church of the Civil Wars. [ie43, September.

Lords who now and then dropped in, filling chairs round
the fire. There must have been plenty of room in the
Chamber for the accommodation of the Assembly, as ordi-
narily there were not present above threescore members.
Everything proceeded in perfect order, and each meeting
commenced and closed with prayer. As we read Baillie's
description, we can see the Divines divided into com-
mittees, can watch them preparing matters for the Assem-
bly, and can hear them speak without interruption, as
each one addresses the reverend Prolocutor. The
harangues are long and learned, and are well prepared
beforehand with "replies," "duplies," " triplies." Then
comes the cry, " Question — question ;" the scribe, Mr.
Byfield, immediately rises, approaches the chair, and
places the proposition in Dr. Twiss's hand, who asks,
" As many as are in opinion that the question is well
in the stated proposition, let them say Aye;" "As
many as think otherwise, say No." Perhaps Ayes and
Noes "be near equal;" then the Prolocutor bids each
side stand up, and Mr. Byfield counts. "When any one
deviates from the point in hand, there are exclamations
of " Speak to order." Nobody is allowed to mention
another by name, but he must refer to him as "the
reverend brother who lately or last spoke, on this hand, on
that side, above, or below." These methods of proceed-
ing deeply interested Bobert Baillie, who, by his minute
description of them, greatly interests us. The Prolocutor,
far too quiet a man for the Scotch delegate, is repre-
sented by him as " very learned, but merely bookish, and
among the unfittest of all the company for any action ;
so after the prayer he sits mute." This, most persons
will think, a chairman ought to do ; but Baillie wished to
have a President with more zeal for Presbyterianism, and
therefore he preferred Dr. Burgess — in his estimation " a

chap, xiii.] Members of the Assembly. 329

very active and sharp man," who supplied, so far as was
" decent, the Prolocutor's place." 1

Twiss did not long retain the office which his modesty
and infirmities had made him reluctant to accept. He
fell down one day in the pulpit, and "was carried to his
lodgings, where he languished about a twelvemonth," and
then expired, July the 20th, 1646. 2 His preference of a
contemplative to an active life appeared in his exclama-
tion after the attack which proved his death-stroke : "I
shall have at length leisure to follow my studies to all
eternity," and throughout he seems to have been as
loyal as he was religious ; for he often wished the fire of
contention might be extinguished, even if it were in his
own blood. A funeral in Westminster Abbey marked
the public opinion of his worth ; and there Dr. Kobert
Harris preached a sermon for him on Joshua i. 2,
" Moses my servant is dead." The Assembly and
the House of Commons followed his remains to the
grave. Mr. Charles Herle, educated at Exeter College,
Oxford, succeeded him in the office of Prolocutor.

There was an overwhelming majority of Presbyterians
in the Jerusalem Chamber. Amongst the most eminent
were Burgess and Calamy, Marshall and Ash. In the
notes of the Assembly's proceedings taken by Lightfoot,
these names repeatedly occur, together with the less
familiar ones of Herle, Seaman, Cawdry, and others.
The Scotch Commissioners, Henderson and Baillie — with
whom were associated George Gillespie, a young man of
rich promise, and Samuel Rutherford, whose "Letters"
on religious subjects are well known — likewise took a
prominent part in the debates. It is proper here also to

1 Baillie' s Letters, ii. ioS, 109. count of Twiss's illness is confused,

2 This is stated on the authority so is Clark's ( Lives, p. 17,) to which
of Bruoh's Lives, iii. 15. His ac- Brook refers.

330 The Church of the Civil Wars. new, September.

remember that Presbyterianism, predominant in the As-
sembly, was at the time supreme in the Senate. All the
staunch Prelatists, and many moderate Episcopalians,
had left the Long Parliament in St. Stephen's Chapel to
join Charles's mock Parliament at Christ Church, Oxford.
Advocates who exposed ecclesiastical abuses with the
view of simply reforming the old establishment had disap-
peared. Of those who remained it would be uncandid to
deny that some were sincere converts to the new system ;
and it would be credulous to believe that there were not
others who, seeing which way the stream flowed, struck
in with the current. At any rate, a Presbyterian policy
prevailed in 1644. Holies, Glynne, Maynard, Budyard,
Bouse, and Prynne, together with Waller, Stapleton,
and Massey, were the most distinguished members of the
party ; yet, though possessing amongst them considera-
ble ability aud learning, they were none of them men
of great intellectual power or of any political genius.

The Erastians, as they are called, must not be over-
looked. John Selden, already noticed, led the van, and
his learning and reputation made him a formidable oppo-
nent. To gain any advantage when breaking a lance with
such a person was counted a high distinction in theological
chivalry, and this honour has been duly emblazoned by
Scotch heralds more than once in favour of young George
Gillespie, whom we have just mentioned. The solid
and industrious Bulstrode Whitelocke, and St. John, " the
dark lantern man," helped to form a small body of
reserve on the same side, who, on special occasions,
behaved themselves valorously in the Westminster field.
The chief Divine who thoroughly advocated Erastianism
was Thomas Coleman, Vicar of Blyton, in Lincolnshire,
of some considerable note in his own day. But a far
greater man — acting, however, only occasionally in con-

Chap. XIII.]

Members of the Assembly.


nexion with the party — was the renowned Dr. Lightfoot,
who in rabbinical lore may be regarded as equal, if not
superior, to John Selden. 1

But another class, entertaining different views, claim

1 As Erastianism is a word vaguely
used, I subjoin the principal theses
in the Book on Excommunication,

by Erastus, and his own account of
the occasion of his writing it.

' ' Excommunication is nothing else
but a public and solemn exclusion
from the sacraments, especially the
Lord's Supper, after an investigation
by the elders." — Thesis viii.

" In the Old Testament none were
debarred from the sacraments on
account of immorality of conduct."
— Thesis xxiii.

" Christ did not hinder Judas,
who betrayed Him, from eating the
paschal lamb." — Thesis xxviii.

" It is not the will of Christ
that His kingdom in these lands
should be circumscribed within
narrower limits than He appointed
for it anciently amongst the Jews."
— Thesis xxxi.

" As in the account given of the
celebration of the sacraments we
see no mention is made of excom-
munication, so neither in the history
of their institution can anything
warranting that practice be disco-
vered." — Thesis xxxvii.

" ' Tell it to the church ' means
nothing else than tell it to the ma-
gistrate of thy own people." —
Thesis lii.

" I see no reason why the Chris-
tian magistrate at the present day
should not possess the same power
which God commanded the magis-
trate to exercise in the Jewish com-
monwealth." — Thesis lxxii.

" If then the Christian magistrate
possesses not only authority to set lie
religion according to the directions
given in the Holy Scriptures, and to
arrange the ministries thereof, but
also, in like manner, to punish
crimes, in vain do some among us
now meditate the setting up of a new
kind of tribunal, which would bring
down the magistrate himself to the
rank of a subject of other men." —
Thesis lxxiv.

According to Erastus, an ignorant
man, a heretic, or an apostate should
be excluded from the sacraments.
But sins were to be punished by the
civil magistrate.

The theses were handed about in
MS., and not published till 1589 —
six years after the death of the
author — with only the fictitious name
"Pesclavii," 1589. The work was
reprinted at Amsterdam, in 164.9,
Two old English translations exist,
published in 1659 and 1682. There
is a modern one by Rev. II. Lee,D.D.,
Edinburgh, 1844.

The occasion of writing the theses,
Erastus says, was a proposition that
a select number of elders should sit
in the name of the whole church,
and judge who were fit to be ad-
mitted to the Lord's Supper, which
he thought would introduce danger-
ous divisions.

Theodore Beza wrote a reply,
published at Geneva, 1590. Seidell's
views of excommunication in his
Table Talk (p. 56) are similar to
those of Erastus, though not so full.


332 The Church of the Civil Wars, uw, September.

our attention : the five dissenting brethren — Nye, Good-
win, Bridge, Burroughs, and Simpson. 1

Philip Nye, a man of ability in some respects, and of
bustling habits, stands out as chief of the five. Zealous
in his commendations of the Covenant, he with equal zeal
opposed Presbyterianism : the very thing which, according
to the fairest rules of interpretation, it must be held to
symbolize. He has been charged with disingenuousness ;
but experience in the matter of subscription makes
charitable people slow to urge the charge. Those who
vindicate subscription in "non-natural senses " ought to
be the last to fling a stone at Philip Nye ; and those who
take the opposite side can hardly praise him for consis-
tency of conduct. How the Covenant could be adopted
by any one professing Independency is a puzzle, and the
puzzle in Nye's case is the greater, because, not con-
tent with quietly assenting to it as many others did, he
appears to have been a chief instrument in bringing it
over the border, and in enforcing it upon his companions.

Thomas Goodwin surpassed Nye in learning and
in other respects. His writings present him to us as
an accomplished theologian, and a many-sided thinker,
and shew that scarcely any forms of thought in meta-
physical divinity escaped his notice. 2 The breadth and

Hobbes wrote his Leviathan in philosopher's theory runs on the

1 651, in which he says (pt. hi., ch. same line with Erastianisrn, only it

42, p. 287, London edition), "The is pushed further,

boohs of the New Testament, though ' Altogether there were ten or

most perfect rules of Christian doc- eleven Independents in the Assem-

trine, could not be made laws by any bly. Baillie mentions Goodwin, Nye,

other authority than that of kings Burroughs, Bridge, Carter, Caryl,

or sovereign assemblies." His doc- Philips, and Sterry. — Letters, d-e., ii.

trine with regard to Christianity no.

is, that socially considered it is "good 2 His works have been recently

and safe advice," but not obligatory republished. His Commentary on

law till the government of a country the Epistle to the Ephesians illus-

shall make it so. This part of the trates what is said here.

chap, xni.] Members of the Assembly. 333

excursiveness of his reflective powers are the more re-
markable when viewed in connexion with his rigid
Calvinism. He joined Philip Nye in a preface to
"Cotton's Keys," and in it expounded ecclesiastical
opinions, in accordance with those of the New England

William Bridge — once a Norwich clergyman, then a re-
fugee in Holland — won a reputation for learning as well as
piety. His library, well stocked with fathers, schoolmen,
and critics, so attracted him, that he rose at four o'clock
both winter and summer, that he might have time for
reading these favourites. Being a man of broad sympa-
thies, he accustomed himself to enquiries beyond the
range of his profession, and boldly handled constitutional
questions. Adopting the opinion, that "the people
formed the first subject and receptacle of civil power;"
an opinion which was the mainstay of the Parliament's
policy, Bridge shrunk not from declaring, " In case a
prince shall neglect his trust, so as not to preserve his
subjects, but to expose them to violence, it is no
usurpation in them to look to themselves, but an ex-
ercise of that power which was always their own." 1
He had suffered under Laud, and knew what it was to
walk in paths of confessorship, so that his exhorta-
tions had no little power to comfort, when he said to his
people in trouble : " Certainly, if God's charge be your
charge, your charge shall be His charge, and being so,
you have His bond that they shall never want their daily

Jeremiah Burroughs seems to have possessed singular
candour, modesty, and moderation, and probably was the
gentlest of the five ; perhaps he was not always quite

1 See The Wounded Conscience Cured, <£c, by William Bridge, 1642.

334 The Church of the Civil Wars. [1043, September.

consistent, 1 being no lover of controversy, but a
man who felt himself at home in devotional medi-
tations. He died before the Westminster Assembly broke
up, 2 and one of the last sermons which he preached
was entitled " Irenicum, or an Attempt to heal Divisions
among Christians."

Sydrach Simpson bore a character for learning, piety,
and moderation though at one time he was silenced by
the Assembly, for differing from them in matters of

The discussions in which the Independents engaged
with their brethren, turned upon the office of Apostles,
the distinction between pastors and teachers, the character
of ruling elders, ordination, the election of ministers, and
the like ; but their main controversy hinged on a deeper
question. The Presbyterians were anxious to meet the
difficulties felt by the Independents, so far as the estab-
lishment of one uniform religion would allow ; the former
vt ere prepared to permit in their large and carefully rami-
fied scheme of ecclesiastical government some little
liberty of action, provided that on the whole there was
obedience to the established system. Freedom from
synodical censure upon certain points was to be conceded
to those who upon others submitted to Presbyterian

1 Baillie remarks : " Liberty of ecu- 2 Neal says lie died of consumption

science, and toleration of all or any {Hist., iii. 377), but the following

religion, is so prodigious an impiety, appears in the Perfect Occurrences,

that this religious Parliament can- 13th November, 1646: — " This day

not but abhor the very naming of it. Mr. Barrows, the minister, a godly,

Whatever may be the opinions of reverend man, died. It seems he

John Goodwin, Mr. Williams, and had a bruise by a fall from a horse

some of that stamp, yet Mr. Bur- some fortnight since; he fell into a

roughs, in his late Irenicum, upon fever, and of that fever died, and is

many unanswerable arguments, ex- by many godly people much la-

plodes that abomination." — See mented."
Tracts on Liberty of Conscience, 270.

chap, xiii.] Toleration. 335

authority. The xissembly would build a huge cathedral for
the nation, with small side chapels here and there for the
use of certain crotchety people, who might privately pass
in and out if they would but always enter through the great
door, and walk up the main aisle. This is not what
men, calling themselves ' Independent,' have ever liked.
The five dissenting brethren did not object to the cathe-
dral being built for those who wished it — but for their own
parts, they desired their own places of worship to be
quite outside.

It will be instructive here to pause a moment, and to
compare the ground taken by the Independents in this
controversy with that occupied by other advocates of
toleration of a different class at the same time. Chil-
lingworth, in his famous work on the " Religion of Pro-
testants," observes in a passage of singular eloquence,
that the imposing of the senses of men upon the words
of God, and the laying of them upon the conscience
under penalty of death and damnation — involving the
vain conceit that we can speak of the things of God
better than in the words of God — is the only fountain
of all the schisms of the Church, and that which makes
these schisms immortal. He brands the practice as the
common incendiary of Christendom, and that which
tears into pieces, not merely the coat, but the mem-
bers of Christ. " Take away," he says, in burning
words, " these walls of separation, and all will quickly be
one. Take away this persecuting, burning, cursing,
damning of men, for not subscribing to the words of men
as the words of God ; require of Christians only to believe
Christ and to call no man Master but Him only ;
let those leave claiming infallibility that have no title
to it, and let them that in their words disclaim it,
disclaim it likewise in their actions ; in a word, take

336 The Church of the Civil Wars. wo.

away tyrannj^, which is the devil's instrument to
support errors, and superstitions, and impieties, in the
several parts of the world, which could not otherwise
long withstand the power of truth — I say take away
tyranny, and restore Christians to their just and full liberty
of captivating their understanding to Scripture only ;
and as rivers, when they have a free passage, run all to
the ocean, so it may well be hoped, by God's blessing,
that universal liberty, thus moderated, may quickly reduce
Christendom to truth and unity." 1

John Hales, in his little tract on " Schism," complains
that it has been the common disease of Christians from
the beginning, not to content themselves with that
measure of faith which God and Scriptures have ex-
pressly afforded us, but to attempt devising things, of
which we have no light, either from reason or revela-

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonEcclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 43)