John Stoughton.

History of religion in England from the opening of the Long Parliament to the end of the eighteenth century (Volume 4) online

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the sinner's forgiveness and acceptance with God, and
his adoption into the Divine family of the Church, and
his heirship of celestial felicities, not as the ultimatum
of Christian object and desire, but as spiritual con-
ditions and circumstances essential to the growth and
maturity of that moral and God-like life which is be-


gotten in the human soul at the hour of the new birth
by the Holy Spirit. No one, who reflects upon a
scheme of theology constructed after this type, can
regard it as defective in moral power, or as betray-
ing the interests of perfect righteousness. To place
righteousness in the position of an end, rather than in
the relation of means to an end, must be to exalt and
glorify it. Those who impugn the whole system of
evangelical belief as derogatory to the moral character
of religion, and who therefore insist upon moral duties
as the means of attaining eternal life, do really dethrone
Christian righteousness from its Divine supremacy,
and turn it into a prudential expedient for promoting
one's own advantage, by making it a series of stepping-
stones or a flight of stairs by which men may climb
from the borders of perdition to the threshold of heaven.
It is they who dishonour, of course unintentionally, the
nature and claims of Gospel righteousness, not teachers
like Baxter and Howe, who, refusing to look at that
righteousness merely or mainly as means to an end, as
price paid for treasure, or as service done for reward,
represent it as the goal of all endeavour, the prize of
the Christian race, the richest gift of Divine love, and
the brightest diamond in the crown of salvation.

A word may be added indicative of the literary and
intellectual niche which the names of these distin-
guished men deserve to occupy. Dr. Arnold said of
the Church Divines of the seventeenth century, " I
cannot find in any of them a really great man." *'
Without adopting the opinion so expressed, I am con-
strained to say that we can find little of what may be
called genius in some of the most renowned. No one
could ascribe that high gift to Thorndike, with all his

* "Life of Arnold," II. 67.


stores of learning and powers of reflection. No one
would think of ascribing it to Bull or Pearson. Nor,
if we include Puritans, can it be attributed in any high
degree to Goodwin or Owen. Perhaps not one of the
whole class of theological writers at the time, able as
they were, could be justly esteemed the equal of that
magnificent moral philosopher and theologian in the
days of Queen Elizabeth, Richard Hooker, or the
compeer even of Thomas Jackson, whose power, learn-
ing, and eloquence so brightly adorned the Church in
the reign of James. Jeremy Taylor, no doubt, had
received Heaven's gift of genius in the form of imagi-
nation, and a power of musical expression in prose
such as no one else could rival, not even John Milton ;
but, in my opinion, the two theologians of that age
who possessed most of original power were Richard
Baxter and John Howe.

Moreover, there was in both of these men a breadth
of human sympathy, always closely allied to the
highest order of intellect, which redeemed them from
the narrowness of some of their contemporaries. Baxter
and Howe evinced none of the restricted Churchman-
ship which blinded the Anglicans to all goodness not
seen in their own communion ; and none of the exclu-
sive Calvinism which made some Puritans virtually shut
up God's love to a few like themselves, and hand over
to reprobation the remainder of the race. Baxter,
although not an accomplished scholar, was a man of
wide and varied reading, and had a decided taste for
history, politics, and especially metaphysics, as well as
for theology ; and Howe, who seems to have known
much more of Greek than his friend, was at home
amongst the ancient masters of philosophy, and perhaps
with none of his brethren, except Theophilus Gale, was


Plato SLTch an Intimate acquaintance, and such a
thorough favourite. It has been justly remarked that
the man who is only a theological scholar is a very
poor one.* The remark may detract from the repu-
tation of some of the Puritans, but not from the re-
putation of the two Divines we have last described.

Before I close this imperfect survey of the theology
of the Puritans, it is desirable to bring together, in some
distinct form, the characteristics of their teaching in
reference to certain points which have not been noticed
in the foregoing account of their opinions.

Here I notice first what they say upon the nature of
sacraments. Goodwin and Owen refer to the subject
of baptism incidentally, the former speaking of it as
the sign of salvation, and as the sealing of our calling,
our justification, our renewal, and our union with
Christ ; the latter alluding to it chiefly for the purpose
of denying that it has the regenerating or purifying
power ascribed to it by Catholics. Owen says a
cleansing in profession and signification accompanies
baptism, \\hen it is rightly administered.! Baxter
enters at large upon the subject, and discusses, in
reference to it, such questions as are particularly inte-
resting to Catholics ; and one question at least — " Is
baptism by laymen or women lawful in cases of neces-
sity .'' " — he answers after a manner resembling that of
the highest Anglican. He denies that there can be
such necessity, yet he does not absolutely pronounce
lay baptism a nullity; although he adds, If the baptizer
''were in no possession or pretence of the office, I would

* The remark, I believe, was made h\ Dr. Lonsdale, Bishop
of Lichfickl.

t Goodwin's '-Works/' IV. 41 ; IX. 82, 362. Owen's "Works,"


be baptized again if it were my case ; because I should
fear that what is done in Christ's name by one that
notoriously had no authority from Him to do it, is not
owned by Christ as His deed, and so is a nullity."*
Again, he remarks, " All that the minister warrantably
baptizeth are sacramentally regenerate, and are, hi
foro ecclcsicB, members of Christ, and children of God,
and heirs of heaven." *' Therefore it is not unfit that
the minister call the baptized regenerate and pardoned
members of Christ, and children of God, and heirs of
heaven, supposing that in foro ecclesicd they were the
due subjects of baptism." What so subtle a dialectician
exactly meant by some things he said upon this sub-
ject, I do not undertake to say ; but certainly Baxter
showed, like Thorndike, a strong disposition to con-
nect the functions of faith with a baptismal covenant.
Baxter's theory was one which, upon a comparison
of his theology in general with that of Thorndike, must
have materially differed from it ; and the quahfications
introduced by the former in immediate connection with
the sentences quoted — which qualifications I have de-
ferred citing until now, in order that their force may
be more clearly seen — must be considered, if we would
avoid misapprehending the drift of his sentiments. "It
is only those that are sincerely delivered up in covenant
to God in Christ, that are spiritually and really regene-
rate, and are such as shall be owned for members of
Christ and children of God in foro cQ:lir\ Those
readers who are familiar with the controversy on
baptismal regeneration will see at once that Baxter's
statements, with his qualifications, may be so explained
as to point to a condition of Divine privilege, possibili-

* " Works," V. 364.

t Ibid., V. 46 ; ''Christian Directory,"' 1673.


ties, and opportunities, rather than to anything else.
He further made a distinction between some baptized
children and others ; a distinction which seems to shift
the conveyance of spiritual benefit from the rite itself
to the relation sustained by the child to a godly
parent. " Not," he says, " that all the baptized, but
that all the baptized seed of true Christians are
pardoned, justified, adopted, and have a title to the
Spirit and salvation." * And in his " Now or Never,"
(published in 1663), there occurs a very strong passage
against baptismal regeneration as held by some Epis-
copalians.! Howe touches upon the subject of baptism
in his " Living Temple," and speaks of it as a taking
on of Christ's badge and cognizance, as the fit and
enjoined sign and token of becoming Christians, and as
a federal rite by which remission of sin is openly con-
firmed and sealed. t Jacomb, in his treatise on " Holy
Dedication," uses, as already noticed, very strong ex-
pressions relative to the nature and effects of the
ordinance ; and I may observe that generally the writ-
ings of the Puritans on the whole subject are pervaded
by a mystic and sacramental tone such as would not
evoke the sympathies of their religious descendants.

The Lord's Supper, Dr. Goodwin exhibits, in oppo-
sition to the Catholic view, not as a commemorative
sacrifice to God, but as a remembrance of His sacrifice
to men ; and he says that by it the intention on God's
part is to represent the whole work of Christ ; and the
intention on our part is to show it forth, and to signify
our personal interest in the benefits of His death. §^
Neither in Owen nor in Howe, so far as I can find, is.

* ''Works," V. 346. t Ibid., VII. 517.

t Howe's "Works," III. 460.
§ Goodwin's "Wodcs," VII. 311.


there anything indicative of their opinions on the
nature of the Lord's Supper ; but Baxter writes
copiously upon this theme. According to him, the
consecration of the sacrament respects God the Father,
and makes it the representative body and blood of
Christ, whilst, in such consecration, the Church offers
the elements to be accepted of God for this sacred use ;
the coninienioratioji of the sacrament respects God the
Son, and He is in it, " in effigy," still crucified before
the Church's eyes, and by it the faithful show the
Father that sacrifice in which they trust ; and the com-
innnication of the sacrament respects God the Holy
Ghost, as being that Spirit given in the flesh and blood
for the quickening of the soul.* The same author, in
his " Dying Thoughts," remarks with reference to the
Real Presence, " When we dispute against them that
hold transubstantiation and the ubiquity of Christ's
body, we do assuredly conclude that sense is judge,
whether there be real bread and wine present or not ;
but it is no judge, w^hether Christ's spiritual body be
present or not, no more than whether an angel be
present. And we conclude that Christ's body is not
infinite or immense, as is His Godhead ; but, what are
its dimensions, limits or extent, and where it is absent,
far be it from us to determine, when we cannot tell
how far the sun extendeth, its secondary substance, or
emanant beams ; nor well what locality is as to Christ's
soul, or any spirit, if to a spiritual body."t It is
strange indeed to hear a Puritan speaking thus : his
language has almost a patristic and Anglican sound.
Certainly Baxter expresses no decided opinion as to
the presence of Christ's body in the sacrament ; but he

* I5axtcr's "Works," IV. (" Christian Directory"), 315.
+ "Works," XV I II. 301.


admits such a presence to be not impossible, and opens
the door for most unsatisfactory speculations.

In connection with the subject of sacraments, it is.
pertinent to inquire what were the opinions of these
Divines in reference to the ministry and ordination.
Baxter, as might be expected, discusses the question in
his usual scholastic manner. His views on baptism, as.
just stated, indicate that he attached much importance
to clerical order ; and he alludes to the power con-
veyed from Christ to the individual minister, of which
power he says neither the electors nor the ordainers are
the donors ; they are only the instruments of designing-
an apt recipient, and of delivering the possession of office.
This position involves a denial of the High Church
doctrine of orders, and this doctrine Baxter still further
denies, when he concludes that imposition of hands is
not essential to ordination, but is simply a decent, apt,
and significant sign. Ordination, however, he holds
to be needful ; for without this key, the office of the
ministry and the doors of the Church would be thrown
open to heretics and self-conceited persons. The
power of ordination he believes to be vested in the
senior pastors of the Church, and the people's call, or
consent, he does not regard as necessary to the minister's
reception of office in general, but only to his pastoral
relation. He admits that laymen may preach, as
did Origen and others, but he cautiously restricts
their preaching to their families, or within " proper
bounds." What he had witnessed in the army had
given the good man a great horror of the license
claimed by lay orators on religious subjects ; and, no-
doubt, recollections of some of his military antagonists-
came before his mind when he laid down the law, that
lay teachers must not presume to go beyond their


abilities, especially in matters dark and difficult. He
also forbids them to thrust themselves into public
meetings, and proudly and schismatically to set them-
selves up against their lawful pastors.* Baxter's
Presbyterianism appears throughout his treatment of
these subjects, — subjects respecting which Goodwin,
Owen, and Howe are silent. But it is not to be inferred
from this circumstance that they Avere indifferent to
•order in the ministry and the Church. What the Inde-
pendents determined respecting these matters, in the
Savoy Declaration, we have seen in a previous chapter.
Next to the Puritan treatment of the sacraments and
the ministry comes the Puritan share in the anti-Popish
controversy. Although none of the Divines now under
consideration took so prominent a part in it as did
Cosin, Bramhall, and Barrow, although none of them,
on this subject, published books which have become so
famous as some written by their brethren, yet of their
intense opposition to Romanism there is not the
shadow of a doubt. They might not have the same
reasons for wielding anti-Papal weapons which their
Anglican contemporaries had, who, by the charges of
Romanizing tendencies brought against them, were
compelled to stand up in self-defence.t Still, expres-
sions of horror at the very thought of Rome are
numerous enough in the works of the Puritans, and
some of them couched their thoughts on the subject in
the strongest phraseology. Nor were there wanting
treatises expressly upon the errors of Romanism from
Puritan hands. Owen, at the suggestion of Lord
Clarendon, it is said, wrote his " Animadversions on
Fiat Lux ; " a work which so pleased His Lordship

* Baxters " Works," V. 287, et seg, 400.

t Compare this with what has been said at pp. 1 14, 115.


that he declared the writer had more merit than any
EngHsh Protestant of that period, and offered him pre-
ferment if he would conform. Baxter went beyond
Owen in the laborious defence of the Reformed against
the Tridentine Church ; for he published altogether
nearly twenty books and pamphlets in this department
of polemical literature, leaving "no one point in the
extensive field untouched," and supplying " a complete
library on Popery."*

In addition to what has been said on the subject in
other portions of this History, a passing notice must be
taken of the ecclesiastical controversies carried on by
the Puritans against the High Church party. During
the Civil Wars, and under the Protectorate, unsparing
attacks were made upon Prelacy, modified schemes of
Episcopacy were proposed, Presbyterianism was upheld
in books and pamphlets almost innumerable, and
between that system of Church government and
Congregationalism the warfare continued fierce and
incessant. The Presbyterian contended against the
Prelatist for the original identity of Bishops and elders,
and for the scriptural authority of their own scheme of
rule and discipline. He contended against the Con-
gregationalist for the right and the duty of reducing
England to a state of ecclesiastical uniformity, based
upon the decisions of the Westminster Assembly, and
defended by the employment of magisterial power.
The Congregationalist contended against the Pres-
byterian for the liberty of gathering Independent
Churches and of maintaining Independent discipline,
and for the toleration, within certain limits, of all
Christian sects. Of course, after the Restoration,
although the main differences continued as before, and

* Orme's " Life of Baxter," 659.


ecclesiastical disputes essentially the same were
carried on, differences in the treatment of these ques-
tions necessarily arose, and changes in polemics on all
sides became inevitable. WliQn the garrison within the
castle walls are mastered and turned out by the
besiegers, when those who were besiegers become the
garrison, and those who formed the garrison become
besiegers, the tactics of each party will undergo altera-
tion. Whilst Presbyterians or Independents, or both,
were in the ascendant. Episcopalians had to assume
an offensive attitude. They were, in fact, for the time
being, Dissenters from the Established religion of the
country, and had, as such, to make good their position
as best they might. But when Prelacy had been re-
established, its friends no longer needed the kind of
battering-rams which they had used very uncomfortably
for about twenty years, they would simply buckle on
their defensive armour, and fence with their weapons as
in days of old. The other party had now to attack
those who were in power, and to draw their lines of
circumvallation around the fortress of intolerance,
whilst they steadily defended themselves against the
charge of schism, and earnestly contended for liberty
and the rights of conscience. Baxter, in his " Plea for
Peace," argued against Conformity on the ground of its
unjust impositions, such as the expression of " assent
and consent " to all things contained in the Prayer
Book, canonical subscription, re-ordination in the case
of Presbyterians, and the oath against seeking any
change in Church or State.

Owen was particularly active and vigorous in defend-
ing Nonconformity, in pleading its rights, and in ex-
pounding his own views of Church polity. In the year
1667, he published several tracts, the design of which


was to promote peaceable obedience to the civil enact-
ments of government ; to show the injustice and
impolicy of subjecting conscientious and useful men to
suffering-, on account of their religious sentiments ; to
expose the unconstitutional nature of the proceedings
against them by informers and secret emissaries ; to
unfold his ideas of the nature and benefits of toleration
in former ages, and in other lands ; to vindicate it from
various charges ; and to point out the folly of attempt-
ing to settle the peace of the country on the basis of
religious conformity.*

At a later period, in 1681, Owen published his
" Enquiry into the Origin, Nature, Institution, Power,
Order, and Communion of Evangelical Churches,"
in which he maintains that " unless men by their
voluntary choice, and consent, out of a sense of their
duty unto the authority of Christ, in His institutions,
do enter into a Church-state, they cannot, by any other
ways or means, be so framed into it, as to find accept-
ance with God therein."

A Church he defines to be — " An especial society or
congregation of professed believers, joined together
according unto His mind, with their officers, guides, or
rulers whom He hath appointed ; which do or may
meet together for the celebration of all the ordinances
of Divine worship, the professing and authoritatively
proposing the doctrine of the Gospel, with the exercise
of the discipline prescribed by Himself, unto their own
mutual edification, with the glory of Christ, in the
preservation and propagation of His kingdom in the
world." t

But with all this zeal in defence of particular forms

* Orme's " Life of Owen," 234. '
t "Works," XX. 74, 113.
VOL. IV. 2 D


of government, the Puritan Divines expressed the utmost
charity towards all Reformed Churches at home and
abroad. The schismatical sentiments of Anglicans,
who cut off Presbyterians and Independents from com-
munion, and expressed hopes of their salvation in only
cautious, faltering terms, find no echo in the writings
of their antagonists. It was the main business of
Baxter's life to unite together Christians of all kinds ;
for this he wrote numerous books, to this he devoted
his best years ; and if Owen came behind him in this
respect, he has, as in a nut-shell, summed up most
truly the cause of all disunion : — " They that believe
not our opinion, we are apt to think believe not in
Jesus Christ ; and because we delight not in them, that
Christ does not delight in them. This digs up the
roots of love ; weakens prayer ; increases evil surmises ;
which are of the works of the flesh, genders strife and
contempt, things that the soul of Christ abhors." *

Able as the Puritans might be in controversy, they
appear to much greater advantage in their experimental
and practical instructions. And here it ought to be
noticed, that whilst the conforming Puritans did not
number amongst them any great scientific Divines,
they included well-known names of another class.
Bishop Hall, by no means an ecclesiastical Puritan,
sympathized a good deal with the doctrinal Puritans
in their distinctive views, and still more in their evan-
gelical spirit ; and this British Seneca, as he is called,
always wrote upon moral and practical subjects with
the unction characteristic of the best kind of Puritanism.
Thomas Fuller, chiefly known as an Historian, employed
his matchless wit in the enforcement of religious duties,
after a manner which bore much of a Puritan stamp,

♦ " Works," XVI. 256.


whilst it fascinated and edified all parties. Dr. Rey-
nolds, the Puritan Bishop of Norwich, wrote books
which were once of considerable celebrity, and which
contain a great deal of evangelical sentiment and
practical piety. The " Christian Armour," by Gurnal,
the Puritan Incumbent of Framlingham, is perhaps as
popular as ever, exhibiting as it does, amidst much
perverted ingenuity of arrangement and a vitiated style
of expression, a surprising amount of spiritual truth
and of crenuine wisdom. The Nonconformists, how-
ever, outpeer their brethren in this department of
literature. John Bunyan has a niche of his own in the
temple of literary fame, where the image of his genius
has been crowned with chaplets woven by the noblest
hands. Other Puritan authors of that age have con-
tributed to the wealth of our spiritual literature. In
proof of which I need only mention Owen's ideal of
Christian character, in his " Mortification of Sin," and
his "Spiritual Mindedness;" Baxter's encouragement
for believers, in his " Saints' Everlasting Rest ; " his
warnings to the ungodly, in his '' Now or Never ; " and
Howe's solace for mourners, in " The Redeemer's
Dominion over the Invisible World."

Alleine's "Alarm to the Unconverted," of which it
was stated in 1775 that 20,000 copies had been sold,
and 50,000 more under the title of " The Sure Guide
to Heaven," is one of those books which are eminently
adapted to awaken deep spiritual convictions. Bates'
"Spiritual Perfection Unfolded and Enforced," to
mention no other book by this estimable author, is
written in his characteristic silvery style : and, if there
be sometimes an " abrupt dismissal of a train of
thought," *' these breaks in the veins of valuable ore
do not appear to be ever very material, and arc rarely


perceptible except to the e}-e of a closely reflecting
and examining reader." 'But the religious excellences
of the volume surpass those which are literary, and if
AUeine's '' Alarm " be calculated to arrest the godless.
Bates' " Spiritual Perfection " is equally fitted to guide
and edify the godly. The titles of Brooks' Treatises
indicate the quaint kind of talent which he possessed : —
'' A Box of Precious Ointment "— " An Ark for God's
Noahs " — " A Golden Key to open Hidden Treasures "
— ''Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver." It is im-

Online LibraryJohn StoughtonHistory of religion in England from the opening of the Long Parliament to the end of the eighteenth century (Volume 4) → online text (page 30 of 34)