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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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tion ;" " neither have they rested here, but upon pretence
of Church authority (which is none) or tradition
(which for the most part is but feigned) they have
peremptorily concluded, and confidently imposed upon
others a necessity of entertaining conclusions of that
nature ; and, to strengthen themselves, have broken out
into divisions and factions, opposing man to man, synod
to synod, till the peace of the Church vanished, without
all possibility of recall."

* The object of both these great reasoners was, without
violating conscience, to secure union. They aimed at
comprehension, but it was comprehension such as all
Puritans condemned. Chillingworth would have had
" the public service of God conducted so that all who
believe the Scriptures and live accordingly, might without
scruple, or honesty, or protestation against any part, join

1 P. 190.

chap, xin.] Toleration. 337

in it ; " and Hales went so far as to say : He did not see
that men of different opinions in religion might not hold
communion in sacred things, and both go to one church,"
" Why may I not go," he asks, "if occasion require, to an
Arian Church, so there he no Arianism expressed in their
liturgy ? And were liturgies, and public forms of service
so framed as that they admitted not of particular and
private fancies, but contained only such things as in
which all Christians do agree, schisms on opinion were
utterly vanished." It is needless to say that this is a
species of latitudinarianism which most religious men
would consider to be inconsistent with a definite doctrinal

The most remarkable treatise on the subject of tolera-
tion belonging to that age is Jeremy Taylor's "Liberty
of Prophesying." In point of eloquence no other work of
the kind can be compared with it ; and though defective it
is still worthy, for the sake of its reasoning as well as its
rhetoric, to be a text book for the student of religious
liberty. The author dwells, in his own matchless way,
on the difficulties of Scripture, the uncertainty of tradi-
tion, the insufficiency of councils, the fallibility of popes
and fathers, the incompetency of the Church, in its
"diffusive character," to be judge of controversies, and
the impertinence of any pretence to such a possession of
the spirit as preserves from error. Reason is pronounced
the best interpreter, and, though some causes of error in
the exercise of reason are culpable, many are innocent. 1

1 I do not attempt to vindicate are, to fall into errors, from which

this great man against the charge of his clearly expressed opinion on

inconsistency. One side of a sub- certain points ought to have saved

ject was everything to him while he him. Mr. Hallam (Literature of

gazed at it. He had no faculty for Europe, iii. 112), in whose severe

harmonizing apparently opposite judgment of Taylor's inconsistency

truths, and was apt, as ardent men I cannot coincide, thinks that one in-

338 The Church of the Civil Wars. b*m.

/ To base toleration on the uncertainty of truth is a very
/nsecure method of proceeding. The alliance of scep-
ticism damages the cause of freedom. Colour is given
/to the charge, that religious liberty springs from religious
\ indifference. It has cost two centuries of experience and
/ discipline to indoctrinate society with the lesson, that the
decision of religious questions without any imposition of
human authority is a right of conscience ; and that the
more earnest we are in the love of truth, the more careful
we should be not to sully its sanctity by the unrighteous
\ enforcement of its principles. Taylor fought manfully
for freedom, but he did not see the highest vantage ground
within his reach. Moreover, in his Essay, comprehension
within the Church often seems confounded with religious
liberty in the State. No clear distinction is maintained
between principles which regulate the one, and principles
winch vindicate the other. Yet the reader of the treatise
may pick out and sort them, for there they are. Taylor
teaches the doctrine — that the duty of faith is com-
pleted in believing the Articles of the Apostles' Creed ;

consistent chapter, (the seventeenth) may he seen in il/rs. Sadleir's Letter

was interpolated after the rest of the to Roger Williams. "I have also

treatise was complete. This is read Taylor's book of the Liberty of

possible, but it is also possible that Prophesying, though it please not

Taylor when first writing his book me, yet I am sure it does you, or

might suddenly swing from one side else I know you would not have

to the other, and then come round wrote to me to have read it. I say,

again. It has been said that Taylor it and you would make a good lire,

forgot his liberality when he became But have you seen his "Divine

a bishop. His biographer, Bishop Institution of the Office Ministerial?"

Heber, attempts to meet this charge. Life of Roger Williams, 99. Mrs.

— Works, i. 30. It may be added, Sadleir was daughter of Sir Edward

that the Dissuasive from Popery, Coke. A writer in the Ecclesiastic,

published in 1664, proceeds on the April, 1853,1). 179, remarks : "What-

eame principles as the Liberty of ever Taylor may have been thought

Prophesying. See Dissuasive, part of since, certainly his contemporaries

ii. book i. — Works, x. 383. amongst the Church party had no

How Taylor's work was regarded very high opinion of him.''
by a Royalist and an Episcopalian

cha r . xiii.] Toleration. 339

that to multiply tests of orthodoxy and to require as-
sent to points of doubtful disputation "is to build a tower
on the top of a bulrush;" and "that the further the effect
of such proceedings doth extend, the worse they are. ' ' With
an amiable self-delusion, characteristic of his pure and
child-like nature, he dreamed of a church, combining all
varieties of belief consistent with faith in the fundamental
verities of the gospel. Though protesting against perse-
cution, he contended for discipline, but confined excom-
munication simply to an act of spiritual severance. It is
difficult to catch exactly what he means by ' ' communi-
cating with dissenting churches" — yet the tone of his
remarks, and his reference to the Greek Church, prevent
us from supposing that he used the appellation in the
way it is commonly employed at present. The division of
kingdoms seems to have been with him the only justifica-
tion of a division of churches ; and probably his theory of
a national church would not be very different from Dr.
Arnold's. He, at the same time, claims toleration for all
opinions, not expressed in overt acts injurious to the State;
and though he hampers his principle with certain qualifica-
tions, which threaten the civil rights of some persons
hostile to Christianity, yet his views, if consistently
carried out in his own gentle and charitable spirit, would
leave little to be complained of by any one. On the
whole, Jeremy Taylor was fuller and more satisfactory in
his views of comprehension and liberty than was either
Chillingworth or Hales.

Dr. Kalph Cudworth and Dr. Henry More, though
they did not propound any theory of toleration, advocated
principles and breathed a spirit in their teaching such as
could not fail to promote the interests of religious liberty.
There is a beautiful sermon by the former of these Divines
preached before the House of Commons, in 1647, in

z 2

340 The Church of the Civil Wars. [i8«.

which the following characteristic passage occurs : —

" The golden beams of truth and the silken cords of love,

twisted together, will draw men on with a sweet violence,

whether they will or no. Let us take heed we do not

sometimes call that zeal for God and His Gospel, which

is nothing else but our own temptations and stormy

passions. True zeal is a sweet, heavenly, and gentle

flame, which makes us active for God, but always within

the sphere of love. It never calls for tire from heaven

\ to consume those that differ a little from us in their

\ apprehensions. It is like that kind of lightning (which

• the philosophers speak of) which melts the sword within,

Vbut singeth not the scabbard. It strives to save the soul,

but hurteth not the body." 1

More, who went beyond Cudworth in decided attach-
ment to Episcopacy ; sharing in the spirit of his great con-
temporary, strongly condemned rancour and persecution.
" He thought," observes his biographer, " that all
persons making conscience of their ways, and that were
themselves peaceable and for granting a liberty unto
others, ought not to be severely used or persecuted, but
borne with as befits weak members till God shall give
them greater light. 2

1 Sermon preached before the the last of these it may be remarked
House of Commons, March 31st, that so early as 1637 he used this
1 647. memorable language, in New Eng-

2 Ward's Life ' of Henry 3Iore, 171. land: "Scribes and Pharisees, and
I have here confined myself to those such as are confirmed in any way of
in the Church of England who ad- error, all such axe not to be denied
vocated toleration, pointing out the cohabitation, but are to be pitied
grounds which they adopted as dis- and reformed ; Ishmael shall dwell
tinguished from those occupied by the in the presence of his brethren."
Independents. Others, whoproceeded (Bancroft's United States, i. 390.)
in the same advocacy on the broadest The most thorough advocate of in-
principles of justice, will be hereafter tellectual liberty in the New World
noticed, i.e., John Goodwin, Leonard was Roger Williams, who, though
Busher, and Sir Heniy Vane. Of in many respects an impracticable

chap, xitl] Toleration. 341

The groundwork of toleration selected by the Inde-
pendents differed from that of the Episcopalians. The
Independents had ideas of Christian faith, Christian
worship, and Christian discipline far more definite
and fixed than those of Chillingworth or Hales, or
even Taylor ; and could not join in any acts or associa-
tions inconsistent with their deeply-formed and devout
opinions. Arianism, for example, might he deemed
simply an intellectual error by men like Hales; but
no Athanasian could be stronger in his maintenance
of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the importance attached
to it, than were these dissenting brethren. They were
as remote as possible from anything like latitudinarian
theology. Christian dogmas, so called, were held by
them with an intense tenacity. Toleration is sometimes
reckoned a daughter of indifference, but most certainly
in their case toleration can be ascribed to no such
parentage. Moreover, the very general kind of devotion
in the house of God which would have satisfied Chilling-
worth, would have starved the spiritual cravings of Jere-
miah Burroughs and his companions.

Nor did the brethren wish for only one church, as did
those eminent Episcopalians. They could not, for it was
their primary principle that " churches " or " congrega-
tions " — with them identical terms — ought to be many.
In the existence of one holy Catholic Church, embracing

man, and wanting in catholicity of liberty of unlicensed printing, 1 644.

spirit, appears to have been an ori- Harrington's Political Aphorisms,

ginal and intrepid champion for the in which liberty of conscience

political independence of theological is justly placed on a political

opinions, as well as a noble minded basis, was not published until

and disinterested leader in colonial 1659. Episcopius and Crellius were

enterprise ' Milton advocates tolera- early advocates for toleration. See

tion in his Areopagitica, a speech to Hallam's Introduction to Literature

the Parliament of England for the of Europe, hi. 103, 104.

342 The Church of the Civil Wars. cms.

all true Christians, they firmly believed ; but they held in
perfect consistency with this, that there must be numerous
and distinct organized communities, not only in the world,
but in the same realm, to be united only by common
Christian sympathies. On this point they would be at
issue with Jeremy Taylor, as well as with Chillingworth
and Hales. They would object to his notion of national
churches, as well as to his standard of Christian faith.
Their ideas of communion were much more strict, though
the extent of their toleration in some respects was more
comprehensive. With Taylor's Catholic predilections
they would have no sympathy, nor could they agree with
him in all he said about Anabaptists. When they came
to the same conclusion with the eloquent Churchman, it
was by a different course of reasoning.

The fundamental principles of Independency, consis-
tently carried out, could not but lead to the advocacy of
a perfect freedom of profession and worship. If churches
be select communities composed of Christian believers,
standing apart from political powers, and independent of
each other in their organization, then it clearly follows
that no ecclesiastical authority can touch those who are
outside the pale of all particular churches that no tem-
poral penalties can be inflicted on those who are within any
such pale and that full liberty of action must be allowed
to religionists of every class, and to those also who have
no religion at all. Accordingly, Mr. Hallam, an unpre-
judiced enquirer into this subject, has declared that "the
congregationalist scheme leads to toleration, as the
national church scheme is adverse to it, for manifold rea-
sons which the reader will discover." 1 A few Independents
at an early period discerned the legitimate consequences

1 Const. Hist., i. 612.

chap, xiii.] Toleration. 343

of their principles. A Brownist petition prepared in the
year 1640 prays, " that every man may have freedom of
conscience," not excepting Papists ; and in a pamphlet
published in 1644 it is asked, ''whether if security be
taken for civil subjection, Papists might not be tolerated?
Otherwise," it is added, " if England's government were
the government of the whole world, not only they, but a
world of idolaters of all sorts, yea the whole world, must
be driven out of the world." l But the five brethren did
not advocate the cause of liberty to that wide extent ; and
afterwards, during the civil wars and the Protectorate,
many Independent Divines, including the leaders of the
party, carefully limited their conception of religious
freedom. 2

But there was one Independent clergyman — John
Goodwin — not a member of the Westminster Assembly
— who with pre-eminent perspicuity and force expounded
the doctrine of toleration. Justice has not been often
done to this very able man, owing, perhaps, to the
prejudice against him on account of his Arminianism,
and to his bold defence of Charles's execution. Calvinists
and Royalists were likely to look at him with jaundiced
eyes ; and it cannot be denied that when assailed, as he
often was, Goodwin could give a Roland for an Oliver ;
and that in a way such as severely galled the victims of
his criticism. 3 He remained until 1645 vicar of St.

1 The petition is largely quoted by the Cheshire ministers in 1648, allu-
"Waddington in his Surrey Congre- sion is made to some of the Inde-
gational History, p. 32, and the pain- pendents as "averse in a great
phlet, entitled Queries of Highest measure to such a toleration as
Consideration, is quoted in Han- might truly be termed intolerable
bury, ii. 246. and abominable " — meaning by that

2 For proofs and illustrations of universal toleration. — Nonconfor-
th is we refer to our second volume. mity in Cheshire. Introduction, xxvi.
In the meanwhile we may observe 3 Life of Goodwin, by Jackson, 93.
that in An Attestation, published by

344 The Church of the Civil Wars. m*

Stephen's, Coleman Street, and at the commencement of
the sittings of the Westminster Assembly, though sus-
pected by some of holding Calvinism very loosely, he
had not yet entirely abandoned that system. Open and
earnest in his advocacy of Independent principles, de-
fending them both from the pulpit and from the press,
he also, whilst remaining vicar and discharging his paro-
chial duties, gathered in his parish an Independent
church ; not, however, preaching separately to that
community, but in Ins more private relationship as
an Independent pastor, praying and holding religious
conversation with them in his own house — whilst the
doors were thrown open for any one to attend the
meetings who pleased.

Goodwin heartily approved of the "Narration,"
though he had no part in the composition of that
performance, and when it came under the attack of
Presbyterians, he broke a lance on its behalf with the
assailants, in a very chivalrous fashion. We do not
remember any other statement of the doctrine of tolera-
tion in the writings of the Independents of that day so
unequivocal as his, expressed in the following words : *

" The grand pillar of this coercive power in magis-
trates is this angry argument : ' What, would } T ou-
have all religions, sects, and schisms tolerated in
Christian churches ? Should Jews, Turks, and Papists
be suffered in their religions, what confusion must
this needs breed both in church and state ! ' I answer :
If, by a toleration, the argument means either an
approbation or such a connivance which takes no know-
ledge of, or no ways opposeth such religions, sects, or

1 A Reply of Two of the Brethren to part which treats of religious
A.S., 1644.. Quoted by Jackson, liberty was the production of his
p. 116. Goodwin states "that the own pen." — Jackson, 57.

chap, xni.] Toleration. 345

schisms as are unwarrantable, they are not to be tole-
rated ; but orthodox and able ministers ought in a grave,
sober, and inoffensive manner, soundly from the Scriptures
to evince the folly, vanity, and falsehood of all such ways.
Others, also, that have an anointing of light and know-
ledge from God, are bound to contribute occasionally the
best of their endeavours towards the same end. In case
the minister be negligent, or forgetful of his duty, the
magistrate may and ought to admonish him that he fulfil
his ministry. If a person, one or more, being members
of a particular church, be infected with any heretical or
dangerous opinion, and after two or three admonitions,
with means of conviction used to regain him, shall con-
tinue obstinate, he ought to be cast out from amongst
them by that church. If it be a whole church that is so
corrupted, the neighbour churches, in case it hath any,
ought to admonish it, and to endeavour the reclaiming of
it. If it be refractory, after competent admonition and
means used for the reducing of it, they may and ought
to renounce communion with it, and so set a mark or
brand of heresy upon the forehead of it.

If, by a toleration, the argument means a non-sup-
pression of such religions, sects, and schisms by fining,
imprisoning, disfranchising, banishment, death, or the
like, my answer is — That they ought to be tolerated ; only
upon this supposition, that the professors of them be other-
wise peaceable in the state, and every way subject to the laws
and lawful power of the magistrate." 1

1 Baillie, writing to Mr. Spang, before identified as Goodwin's, of

May 17th, 1644., (Letters, ii. 184,) Coleman Street,) " to take from the

says : " The Independents here, magistrate all power of taking any

finding they have not the niagis- coercive order with the vilest here-

trate so obsequious as in New tics. Not only they praise your

England, turn their pens, as you magistrate who for policy gives

will see in M.S.," (which he had some secret tolerance to diverse

346 The Church of the Civil Wars. uus.

There is a good deal of controversy as to who was first
in the field of toleration. The honour most likely belongs
to Leonard Busher. He will be noticed hereafter in con-
nection with the early Baptists. But the controversy is of
little importance in relation to the general interests of man-
kind, compared with the fact that John Locke, at a later
period, was the apostle to teach the doctrine effectively
to the English nation. He discovers who proves, and the
merit of discovery is due to him who first establishes a
principle ; but he, who adopting what was established
before, is more successful in his advocacy of it than his pre-
decessors were, will and ought to be regarded as a superior
benefactor of his race, though he may have attributed to
him more of the merit of originality than he deserves.
Locke brought the doctrine of toleration out of the
domain of theology, and placed it on the basis of poli-
tical righteousness ; * he established it by common sense
reasoning adapted to the English understanding ; besides,
he did this in the exercise of a peculiar and independent
genius; and, what is a more important consideration,
his contemporaries were prepared for his instructions by
preceding struggles and by possessing already an instal-
ment of legal toleration. Locke is to be distinguished
from Busher, Goodwin, and Owen, and from Chilling-
worth, Hales, and Taylor. He comes more in a line

religions, wherein, as I conceive, expressly said not to he shared by
your Divines preach against them the five, it has hy some been put
as great sinners ; but avows that into the lips of Nye.
by God's command the magistrate ' As I have already observed,
is discharged to put the least dis- Harrington also did this. One of his
courtesy on any man — Jew, Turk, pohtical aphorisms on the subject
Papist, Socinian, or whatever, for is admirable, " "When civil liberty,
his religion." " The five will not is entire it includes liberty of
say this, but M.S. is of as great conscience. When liberty of con-
authority here as any of them." science is entire, it includes civil
Yet, though this sentiment is by liberty."
Baillie confined to Goodwin, and

chap, xiii.] Toleration. 347

with the first than with the second three names ; but he
did what they had none of them the power to do — he
made the doctrine popular. A parallel may be drawn in
this respect between the history of the principle of govern-
ment non-interference with a man and his conscience, and
the principle of government non-interference with com-
mercial interests and the natural laws of demand and
supply. Long after the discovery and illustration of the
latter principle, a great statesman made plain to the
common understanding of his fellow-countrymen what
had been before apprehended by only a few philosophers.
John Locke occupies a position in the history of tolera-
tion like that of Richard Cobden in the history of free

After all, the Independents must be reckoned the chief
and most influential of the early apostles of toleration,
and to their rise and progress we shall direct attention
in the following chapter.



A CONGREGATIONAL Church existed in London so
early as 1568. It consisted of poor people, num-
bering about 200, " of more women than men," who
openly separated from the Establishment, and sometimes
in private houses, sometimes in fields, and occasionally
even in ships, held meetings, and administered the sacra-
ments. 1 Some of these early Independents were sent to
Bridewell. In a declaration signed by Richard Fitz, the
pastor, occurs the following brief statement of prin-
ciples : — " First and foremost, the glorious Word and
Evangel preached, not in bondage and subjection, but
freely and purely ; secondly, to have the sacraments
ministered purely only, and altogether according to the
institution and good word of the Lord Jesus, without
any tradition or invention of man; and, last of all, to have,
not the filthy canon law, but discipline only, and altogether
agreeable to the same heavenly and almighty word of our
good Lord Jesus Christ." 2 In these quaint words of

1 Letter from Grinded to Bul-
linger, June nth, 1568. Zurich Let-
ters, First Series.

2 This is extracted from p. 12 of
a small volume entitled Historical

Papers, First Series, Congregational
Martyrs, published by Elliot Stock.
The document bears internal signs
of genuineness, but it is not said
where the original may be found.

chap, xiv.] Early Congregational Churches. 349

Richard Fitz, and his obscure brethren, lie folded up
the great truth that the Christian religion is simply
a moral power, based on a Divine foundation, not
asking, because not needing, support from political
governments, or aid from physical force. These humble
men really believed that Jesus Christ established His
empire upon the consent and not the fears of man, "and
trusted Himself defenceless among mankind." 1 Not
caring for earthly sanctions, they threw themselves on

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonEcclesiastical history of England : from the opening of the long parliament to the death of Oliver Cromwell (Volume 1) → online text (page 28 of 43)