Page images
PDF
EPUB

Palatine or Genevian forms. But in all three, they held forth such a doctrine touching God's decrees, that they gave occasion of reviving the old Blastian heresy, in making God to be the author of sin : Which doctrine being new-published in a pamphlet, entituled, Comfort for Believers in their Sins and Troubles, gave such a hot alarm to all the Calvinists in the new Assembly, that they procured it to be burnt by the hands of the hangman. But first, they thought it necessary to prepare the way to that execution, by publishing in print their detestation of that abominable and blasphemous opinion, that God hath a hand in, and is the author of the sinfulness of his people, as the title tells us. So that now Calvin's followers may sleep supinely without regard to the reproaches of uncivil men, who had upbraided them with maintaining such blasphemous doctrine. The reverend Divines of the Assembly have absolved them from it, and shewed their detestation of it ; and who dares charge it on them for the time to come?

“ But these things possibly were acted as they were Calvi, nians, and perhaps Sabbatarians also, and no more than so. And therefore we must next see what they do on the score of

* A few extracts from Archer's work will exhibit the deformity of high Calvinistic speculations, when they are tendered incautiously and without limitations: “God may as truly ande asily have a will and hand in, and be the author of sins, as of afflictions. We may safely say, that God is, and bath an hand in, and is the author of the sinfulness of his people.The fear of some of these inconveniences hath made divines not to acknowledge so much of God in sin, as is in sin : They have erred on the other hand, and made sin more of the creature and itself, and less from God, than it is. They grant that God is willing sin should be, and that he permits it, and orders circumstances about its production, and bath an hand in, and is the author of the physical or moral act, in and with which sin is; but the essence of sin, that is, the pravity and ataxy, the anomy and irregularity of the act, which is the sinfulness of it, God hath no hand, neiiber is he any author at all ' thereof.' This opinion goes wrong another way, and gives not to God enough in sin. Let us embrace and profess the truth, and not fear to say that of God which he in his holy book saith of himself, namely, " That of him and from his band is not only the thing that is sinful, but the pravity and sinfulness of it.'

The true cause of the suppression of the book seems to have been this circumstance-its author was an Independent teacher at Arnheim, and consequently at that period an object of the intolerance of the Presbyterians, one of whom speaks thus of him and his book : “ Neither is this all the new light that did shine forth in the candlestick of Arnheim ; but there also master Archer giveth forth, for the comfort of his hearers, without the reproof so far as yet we have heard of any of his colleagues, That God is not only

the author of sin, but also of the sinfulness, the very formality, the anomy, * the ataxy, the pravity of sin:'. A doctrine which all Protestants ever did abhor'as high blasphemy, and which the Assembly of Divines, with both the Houses of Parliament, did condemn as such ; appointing Master Archer's book for that worst heresy of the Libertines, and grossest blasphemy of the Antinomians,-to be solemnly burnt by the hand of the hangman. The order of the House of Lords runs thus: • Complaint being this day made to

the Lords in Parliament, by the Assembly of Divines, that a certain blasphemous and heretical book intituled, Comfort for Believers, is printed and published, being written by JOHN ARCHER'; their Lordships much abhorring the said blasphemies, do award and adjudge, that the said book shall be . burnt by the hand of the common hangman."-Baylie's Dissuasive.

[ocr errors]

Presbytery, for setting up whereof they had taken the covenant, called in the Scots, and more insisted on the abolition of the Episcopal function, than any other of the propositions which more concern them.

To this they made their way in those demands which they sent to Oxon, the Ordinance for Ordination of ministers, and their advancing of the Directory in the fall of the Liturgy. They had also voted down the calling of Bishops, in the House of Commons, on Sept. 8, 1642 ; and caused the passing of that vote to be solemnized with bells and bone fires in the streets of London, as if the whole city was as much concerned in it, as some factious citizens. But knowing that little was to be effected by the propositions, and much less by their votes, they put them both into a bill, which past the House of Peers on the third of February, some two days after they had tendered their proposals to the King at Oxon. And by that bill it was desired to be enacted, that from the fifth of November, (the day designed for the blowing-up the Parliament by the gun-powder traitors,) which should be in the year of our Lord 1643, there should be no Arch-bishops, Bishops, Commissaries, &c. (with all their train recited in the Oxon article, Numb. 21,) in the church of England: That from thenceforth the name, title, and function of Arch-bishops, Bishops, Chancellors, &c. or likewise the having, using, or exercising any jurisdiction, office, and authority, by reason or colour of any such name, dignity, or function, in the realm of England, should utterly and for ever cease. And that the King might yield the sooner to the alteration, they tempt him to it with a clause therein contained, for putting him into the actual possession of all the castles, manors, lands, tenements, and hereditaments, belonging to the said Arch-bishops, or Bishops, or to any of them.* And for the lands of Deans and Chapters, the brethren

* “Before we swear the extirpation of Church-Government by Archbishops, Bishops, &c., it would beseem us to consider, besides what we have been already put in mind of, these particulars. (1.) What shall be done with all their rents and revenues, to which they and their successors have as good and just right, as any subjects bave to whatsoever they call theirs ? If they must be alienated to the use of some others, how shall those many heavy anathemas and terrible curses laid upon the alienators thereof, by the donors and others, be avoided? (2.) Whether divers families of this kingdom have not already smarted sufficiently for less sacrileges ? (3) What encouragements will there be left to persuade any of good birth, parts and abilities, to apply themselves to the study of divinity; when every other profession, from the noblest to the basest, shall have honourable preferment and advancement for those that are diligent and laborious therein, only they, which rule the church of God well, aud labour in the word and doctrine, (whom God himself declares to be worthy of double honour or double maintenance, 1 Tim. v, 17,) shall have all hopes and possibility of honour and honourable maintenance taken from thein ; so that every noble, free-born, well-bred, ingenuous son shall say to his parents, · Rather make me a tailor, a button-maker, a cooper or a cobler, than a divine ?'. (4.) Whether our adversaries thé Papists will not by this means soon find far fewer abler to encounter with them, and far more ready and willing to enter combat for them, they having so great rewards for their champions, and we so little for ours ?' If good

had a hope to parcel them amongst themselves, under the colour of encouraging and maintaining a preaching-ministry; some sorry pittance being allowed to the old proprietaries, and some short pension during life to the several Bishops.* livings with cures of souls be thought encouragement ample enough, it were good to consider, (5.) What honourable or comfortable support or salary those worthy men shall have whom God shall hereafter endow, either with the gift of tongues, or the interpretation thereof, or with the gift of wisdom and knowledge in the great controversies and mysteries of religion, and yet have not the gift of preaching or prophesying, and so are not so fit for pastoral charges or cures as some others, otherwise far inferior to them? (6.) How shall they whom God requires to be given to hospitality above other men, (1 Tim. iii, 2,) be able to shew themselves hospitable at all, when all means of hospitality shall be denied them ? In a word, and that such as may perhaps be better listened unto by some, than all that hath been spoken : What will become of those many tenants and their children and families, who in this kingdom have and do and still may (if this government be not extirpated) enjoy so much benefit and profit by their leases from Archbishops, Bishops, Deans and Chapters,&c. hitherto accounted, by their own acknowledgment, as good tenures as the most in this kingdom ? What I say, within a while, will become of them and theirs ? when they shall be compelled to turn tenants to those landlords whose cruel exactions in raising their rents above what Archbishops, Bishops, and other church-govervours have required, the experience of some former alienations to such, do abundantly witness; they must not then expect, what divers of them are now scarce content with, that their landlords will take one year's rent, and give them the profit of almost seven?

“ But what do I speak of tenants alone? Let it be seriously considered, how many other ingenuous men serviceable to God, to the King and to the whole kingdom, have been bred, brought up and maintained by the revenues of the church-governors : I verily believe, far more in one age than all the ages to come will ever see bred, hrought up, and maintained by those revenues, if they should (which God of his mercy disappoint) once come to be estated upon others. Let also the many poor that have been relieved thereby, be a little thouglit on. And let it not be forgotten what issues out thence yearly in first-fruits, tenths and subsidies towards the necessary and royal support of the crown itself; which otherwise must and would be raised out of the revenues of other men, in some manner and measure far more burdensome into them. Put all these together, and you will find, that the demesnes of our church-government do not deserve that envy which some malicious sacrilegious conspirators carry towards it: neither do our church-governors reap to themselves out of their own demesnes a fifth part of so much profit and emolument as others gain by them. I would have scorned to have named this as any piece of an argument in this holy cause, did I not too well know that it is the demesnes of the church chiefly that makes so many to quarrel at the government of it: and if the revenues of the church were wholly in their hands, so that the Archbishops, Bishops, Deans, Deans and Chapiers, Archdeacons, &c. had nothing but what they would allow them, they would not much grudge to allow them all their degrees, titles and ofti ces.”—The Anti-Confederacy.

* After all the property of Archbishop Usher had been destroyed in the grand Irish Rebellion, (1641,)“ it pleased his late Majesty (Charles I] to provide for him much better in England, by conferring on him the Bishopric of Carlisle, (lately void by the death of Dr. Potter,) to be held in commendam. This, though very much abated by the Scotch and English armies quartering upon it, as also by the unhappy wars which not long after followed, yet he made shift to subsist upon it, with some other helps, until that rebellious House of Commons seized upon all bishops' lands. And though, in consideration of his great losses in Ireland, as also of his own merits, and to make him some satisfaction for what they took away, they voted him a pension of four hundred pounds per annum, yet I cannot hear that he ever received it, above once or twice at most: For the Independent faction, getting upper-.. most, soon put an end to that payment.”

« Such was the tenour of the bill, which found no better entertainment than their propositions : So that despairing of obe taining the King's consent to advance Presbytery, they resolved to do it of themselves, but not till they had broken the King's forces at the battle of Naisby : for on the nineteenth of August then next following, they publish Directions in the name of * the Lords and Commons, (after advice with their Divines of *the Assembly,) for the chusing of Ruling-Elders in all the con'gregations, and in the Classical Assemblies, for the cities of • London and Westminster, and the several counties of the

kingdom, in order to the speedy settling of Presbyterial govern'ment. Amongst which, no small care was taken for making • twelve classes of the ministers of London only ; and after, for

dividing each particular county into several classes, with reference to the largeness and extent thereof. Which orders and directions were after seconded by the ordinance of October the twentieth ; containing certain rules for the suspension of scandalous and ignorant persons from the holy supper, and giving power to certain persons therein named, to sit as judges and triers, as well concerning the election as the integrity and ability of all such men as are elected Elders within any of the twelve Classes of the province of London. It is not to be thought, but that the London Elderships made sufficient haste to put themselves into the actual possession of their new authority.* But in the country, most men were so cold and back

Good Bishop Hall was called to endure similar ill treatment from that usurping administration. (See page 334.) And if the two pious Prelates were thus treated, wbo, for their love of a species of predestination, were in high esteem, and became subjects of hatred to the Preshyterians solely on account of their laudable attachment to Episcopacy and Monarchy; what must have been the deplorable fate of those worthy divines who had to bear a double portion of that hatred on account of their love of Arminianism ?

* Joshua Sprigge, who had entertained as sanguine expectations, as any other Calvinist, concerning the favourable and auspicious issue of the united enterprizes of his brethren, uttered the following complaint, in the Preface to the secund erlition of his Testimony to an approaching Glory, in 1649 : “God is not only the uuchangeable glass wherein all changes are truly represented, and the unchangeable 'eye and light wherein and whereby they are according to their true state seen and discerned; but he is the unchangeable FATHER of these differing and changeable lights and appearances that are thus seen by us, and represented iu us, according to another text in James, (i. 17.) Every good and perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, nor shadow of turning'. Yet what pity is it! not only the ordinary sort of teachers who take for doctrines the traditions of men, but even those who have separated themselves to a more diligent enquiry after truth, and seem to be of a choicer taste, yet are dazzled with the light they carry in their own lanthorns. But were this infirmity found only in the teachers, it were not so great, though a very great mischief: But where shall we find almost a saint that knows his own prayers, or is not afraid to meet his own dear hopes in the things of [which] we are speaking?

It may not be forgotten what a spirit of prayer was poured forth upon the people of God in this kingdom some six or seven years past; how our hearts were drawn forth in requests for the Spirit, for the kingdom of Christ, for his coming in the Spirit, for his truths to open and enipty themselves

FF

ward, that the Lower House was fain to quicken them with some fresh Resolves; by which it was required, on the twen, tieth of February, that choice be forthwith made of Elders, throughout the kingdom, according to such former directions as had past both Houses; and that all classes and parochial congregations should be thereby authorised effectually to proceed therein. And that the church might be supplied with able ministers in all times succeeding, the power of ordination, formerly restrained to certain persons residing in and about the city of London, (according to the ordinance of the second of October, 1644,) is now communicated to the ministers of each several classis, as men most like to know the wants of the parish-churches under their authority.

“ But here it is to be observed, that, in the settling of the Presbyterian government in the realm of England, as the Presbyteries were to be subordinate to the classical, provincial, and national assemblies of the church, so were they all to be subordinate to the power of the Parliament, as appears plainly by the ordinance of the fourteenth of March; which makes it quite another thing from the Scottish Presbyteries, and other assema blies of that Kirk, which held themselves to be supream, and unaccountable in their actings, without respect unto the King, the Parliament, and the courts of justice. But the truth is, that as the English generally were not willing to receive that yoak ;*,

upon us. These with that fervency and uncessantness, as served to some instead of PROPHECIES of these things shortly to be, to their great comfort and encouragement to expect them! And now is all that truth (which] we expected, come to a new form of governmeut, whether Presbyterial or Congregational ? Is this all THE NEW LIGHT we looked for,—to see to cast our cities and counties into Classes, and Provinces, or to put new names of PASTOR and TEACHER upon our ministers, instead of the old names of Priests and DEACONS ? I

say, is this all that coming of Christ in the Spirit we wanted, desired, expected ? Hath this mortified our lusts, quickened our hearts, beautified our ways, that we are at rest ? Are these the changes that speak the day of Christ so notable, su terrible, that it is said, Who may abide the day of his coming ? Shall the refiner's fire, and the fuller's soap, find only a few superstitious Ceremonies to purge out of our Parish assemblies ? Is this the shaking of heaven and earth, to shake men out of an Episcopal prelacy into a Presbyterial ? Or say, it were out of a Presbyterial form into a Congregational, which is but a step further : May not, have not these changes been made, salvo nomine, with good credit and advantage to the makers ? O my brethren, these are but the delusions of your adversary the devil, who, if he cannot content you with his old trash, will turn merchant of REFORMATION, and cheat you with the SUPERFICIES OF IT.

* The friends of Episcopacy could not be expected to shew themselves favourable to the Presbyterian yoke; and the Independents, who were then becoming a powerful faction, expressed a similar aversion. This is indirectly admitted by the wary author of the Interest of England, in the Matter of Religion, Unfolded, published in 1660. He says: “ It is most unreasonable to object, that the late wild postures, extravagancies and incongruities in government, were the work of Presbytery or Presbyterians. The nation had never proof of Presbytery, for it was never settled, but rather decried and exposed to prejudice by those that were in sway, and that in the more early times of the late wars. The joint stock of UNIFORM RELIGION was left, and

« PreviousContinue »