« PreviousContinue »
the eucharist, were willing, for questions like these, to disturb the peace of the religious world, and subject themselves to the same severities which they had previously inflicted on the episco- , pal clergy.
« With these men, whether in England, or Ireland, there were apparently only three lines of conduct for the ruling powers to follow.
“ The First was, the adoption of such a liturgy and form of church government as would, at once, satisfy the advocates of episcopacy and presbytery. This was attempted in vain ; and was, indeed, a measure, the failure of which, a very slight atten-, tion to the prejudices and animosity of both parties would have, enabled a by-stander to anticipate.
“The second was that which was, at least virtually, promised by the king in the declaration of Breda; that, namely, uniformity of discipline and worship should, for the present, not be insisted on ; that the Presbyterian and Independent preachers should, during their lives, be continued in the churches where they were settled; ejecting only those who had been forcibly intruded, to the pre- » judice of persons yet alive, and who might legally claim reinstatement; and filling up the vacancies of such as died, with ministers episcopally ordained and canonically obedient. In this case, it is possible that, as the stream of preferment and patronage would have been confined to those who conformed, as the great body of the nation were strongly attached to the liturgy, and gave a manifest preference to those churches where it was used; : and as the covenanting clergy would have no longer been under the influence of that point of honour, which, when its observance was compulsory, induced them to hold out against it, the more moderate, even of the existing generation, would have by degrees complied with their own interests and the inclination of their flocks; while the course of nature, and the increasing infirmities of age, must, in a few years, have materially diminished the numbers and influence of the more pertinacious. We have found, in fact, by experience, that the siturgy has, through its intrinsic merits, obtained, by degrees, no small degree of reverenice even among those who, on other grounds, or on no grounds at all, dissent from the church of England, as at present constituted. And it is possible that, by thus forbearing to press ils observance on those whose minds were so ill prepared to receive it, a generation would soon have arisen, to whom their objections would have appeared in their natural weakness, and the greatest and least rational of those schisms have been prevented, which have destroyed the peace and endangered the existence of the British churches.'
“But, while we at the present day are amusing ourselyes with schemes of what we should have done had we lived in the time of our fathers, it may be well, for the justification of these
last, to consider how little the principles of toleration were then understood by either party; how deeply and how recently the episcopal clergy, and even the laity of the same persuasion, had suffered from the very persons who now called on them for forbearance; how ill the few measures which were really proposed, of a conciliatory nature, were met by the disingenuousness of some of the Presbyterian leaders, and the absurd bigotry of others, and the reasonable suspicion which was thus excited, that nothing would content them but the entire proscription of the forms to which they objected.
“Nor can we greatly wonder, that, under such circumstances, the THIRD and simplest course was adopted,—that, namely, of imposing afresh on all a liturgy, to which the great body of the people was ardently attached, and the disuse of which, in any particular parishes, (when the majority of congregations enjoyed it,) was likely to be attended with abundant discontent and inconvenience. These considerations are, indeed, no apology for the fresh aggressions of which the episcopalian party were guilty, for their unseasonable though well-intended alterations of the liturgy, and the hostile clauses inserted in their new Act of Uniformity. Far less can they extenuate the absurd wickedness of the persecution afterwards resorted to, against those whom these measures had confirmed in their 'schism. But they may lead us to apprehend that, (though a very few concessions more would have kept such men as Baxter and Philip Henry in the church,) there would have been very many whom no concession would have satisfied ;* and that the offence of schism was, in a great degree, inevitable, though a different course, on the side of the victorious party, might have rendered it of less wide diffusion, and of less deep and lasting malignancy."
IV. CONTENTS OF THIS VOLUME. Having given, in the preceding paragraphs, some account of the belligerent Calvinists of 1643, and of their immediate successors, I introduce my readers to Dr. William Twisse, who has been called “ä Puritan of the Old School," but to whom belongs the inuch more appropriate appellation of “a Puritan of the New School.” I connect his personal history with the Synod of Dort, and relate at some length, (pp. 242—256,) the political consé-, , quences of the decisions of that Assembly in several countries of Europe. I afterwards (pp. 256—307) describe the hosts of Cal
• This will be very evident to every one who has had an opportunity of perusing the very able pamphlets which were published by the Presbyterians, between 1660 and 1662. The answers of their Episcopalian brethren are likewise deserv. ing of a perusal, on account of the moderation which many of them exhibit.
vinistic prophets that immediately arose to predict great things to Calvinism, and the resistance which Grotius, Hammond, and a few others gave to this prophesying humour. Without a brief exposition of this kind, the reader would not be able to form any conception of the origin of that fanatical spirit which was excited among the common people by a few artful Predestinarians, and which never ceased to operate till it had engendered civil discord in every European state in which Calvinism received encourage ment. This subject is resumed in another part of the volume, (pp. 499-532,) in which it is shewn, that, when the interests of Calvinism were to be promoted by arts like these, the cool metaphysical head of Dr. Twisse could busy itself in auspicious predictions respecting the overthrow of the Arminians; and that, when the mild and ingenuous Joseph Mede would not sing to his sanguine tune, and prophesy smooth things to those whom he accounted “ the Lord's people," the old Doctor became very wroth and renounced his acquaintance. From the whole of this minute recital I have shewn (p. 515) how “ Divine Providence then permitted the experiment of a reputed holy republic to be made in this country, and undoubtedly intended that its disastrous issue should be a warning to the nations not to infringe the royalties of Heaven, by assigning the precise time for the accomplishment of particular events predicted in God's Holy Word, to which perverse and designing men gave a plausible meaning, and under it concealed their own secular and corrupt designs !”
After due reprehension of this perversion of Christianity through pretended inspirations, (pp. 307—377,) I subjoin a brief detail, from Dr. Heylin's History of Presbyterianism, of the seditious practices of the Calvinistic cabal in Scotland and England from 1637 till the murder of King Charles the First, a description of which catastrophe is quoted from Lloyd's Worthies. I then endeavour (pp. 379-391,) most impartially to decide between the Presbyterians and Independents,“ respecting the degree of blood-guiltiness which attached to each of the prevailing parties," and have presented my readers (p. 387) with extracts from sermons delivered before the Long Parliament, by celebrated Presbyterian divines, only a few months prior to that fatal tragedy. The Assembly of Divines and their revolutionary labours at Westminster are afterwards described, (pp. 392-446, when Dr. Twisse's personal history again connects itself with the public events of the kingdom.'
In the language of Mr. Reid, one of the old Doctor's biogra. phers, I give all the leading circumstances of his life, (pp. 452472,) and some curious particulars concerning the arrangements and conduct of the Westminster Assembly, over which he was appointed to preside. The Doctor's famous Latin book against Arminius is the next subject, (pp. 472–494,) on which I have offered animadversions. Of his prophesying predilections I have
already made mention ; and his correspondence with the Rev., Joseph Mede on this subject is introduced (pp. 494-546,) with, the ulterior view of affording my readers a good opportunity of forming a judgment concerning the alleged innovations by Archbishop Laud in the public worship of the church. Mr. Mede had publicly defended bowing towards the altar, and other rites revived by Bishop Andrews, (p. 532,) long before Laud had attained
any influence at Court: In the letters, therefore, which passed : between him and Dr. Twisse, both of whom were accounted more
excellent and moderate than their cotemporaries, the case of reputed novel ceremonies is discussed with the greatest coolness ; and every thinking man will soon decide for himself, whether
those innocent observances deserved to be represented in such an terobnoxious light as they have generally been, or to be charged 90 exclusively to the black account of one to whom they do not
appertain. Mr. Mede's testimony on these topics is the more valuable, because he is generally depicted by modern Dissenters as a PURITAN, though, by a perusal of the notes in pages 741, 487, and 525, the reader will feel some hesitation about the para ticular class under which he ought to be ranged.
All this discussion about rites is preliminary to a history of FUNDAMENTAL ARTICLES of Religion, the devising of which in that age engrossed the attention of the greatest and most philanthropic individuals in different Protestant communities. Omitting particular mention of those devised by the enlightened Catholics, Cassander, Erasmus, Wikelius, and others; I commence (pp. 546
-809,) with a notice of the acts of pacification by Arminius, Du” Moulin, M. A. De Dominis, Grotius, Laud, Dury, and Mede, and conclude with those of Cromwell's Committee of Fundaa, mentalists, the Officers of the Republican Army, Milton, and the new race of Arminians in the depressed Church of England who were reproachfully called “ Latitudinarians," but whose liberal and benevolent principles had taken deep root during the Inter-, regnum. I have been purposely diffuse on this important topic, that I might demonstrate the extreme aversion of ali the high Predestinarians to such broad foundations of Christian concord, and might contrast the narrowness of the most famous of the Calvinistic schemes of FUNDAMENTALS with those of the more liberal Arminians. It was with a feeling of well-founded confidence, that I knew I could take hold of one of the most objectionable of the reputed English Arminians, Archbishop Laud, and could prove the great superiority of his benevolent views to those of the most admired of his Calvinistic cotemporaries. Like every youthful student who knows nothing of Laud except what the most popular of our historians have delivered,* I had imbibed
. Thus, for instance, the Rev. John Wesley, with whose writings I was, familiar when quite a boy, gave, in 1777, the members of the Established
early prejudices against him, and considered the following: description of him and of his noble predecessor on the scaffold, though the composition of an eminent writer, as greatly overcharged : “ The two ministers that stood in the gap betwixt the “ conspiracy and the government, (and who were only cut off, “ as appeared by the sequel, to clear the passage to the King “ himself,) were the Earl of Strafford and Archbishop Laud: So " that their first attack was upon the Earl, and their next upon " the Archbishop, under the notion of evil councillors. Upon the " common charge of POPERY and ARBITRARY PROCEEDINGS, their “ impeachmente were carried on by tumults; and these brave “men were rather baited to death by beasts, than sentenced with "any colour of law or justice: And as they lived, so they died, “the resolute assertors of the English Monarchy and Religion«the Earl of Strafford in May, 1641, but the Archbishop was kept, "languishing in the Tower till January, 1644. And their crime
Church, and then the Dissenters, the following wholesome advice and reproof, in his Calm Address to the Inhabitants of England, on the subject of the American war :-“ How is it that any of you, who fear God, are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, to speak evil of the Ruler of your people, as well as of those that are put in authority under him? Do you believe, that Michael the archangel durst not bring a railing accusation against Satan 2 And dare you bring or retail a hundred railing accusations against your lawful governors ? Now, at least, humble yourselves before God, and act more suitably to your character. Wherever you are, far from countenancing, repress the base clamours of the vulgar, remembering those awful words, If any man among you seemeth to be religious, (rather be ever so religious,) and bridleth not his tongue, that man's religion is vain.
“ Are not you, who DISSENT from the Established Church, in whatever kind or degree, particularly concerned to observe this, for wrath, as well as for con.. science sake? Do you imagine, there are no High Churchmen left ? Did they all die with Dr. Sacheverel? Alas ! how little do you know of mankind! Were the present restraint taken off, you would see them swarming on every side, and gnashing upon you with their teeth. There would hardly need a nod from that: sacred person, ( King George the Third, ] whom you revite, or at least lightly esteem. Were he to stand neuter, in what a condition would you be, within one , twelve-months ? If other Bonners and Gardiners did not arise, other LAUDS , and SHELDON's would, who would either rule over you with a rod of iron, or drive you out of the land. Know the blessings you enjoy. Let common sense restrain you, if neither religion nor gratitude can. Beware of the wrath of a. patient man.' Dare not again to open your lips against your sovereign--[shall.. I say, 1-lest he fall upon you? No; but lest he cease to defend you. Then, farewell to the liberty you now enjoy !”
I hope some of the succeeding pages of this volume will shew, that Archbishop Laud was deserving of a better and milder station, than that which is here assigned to him and to Sheldon : Both of them lived in troublous times, and had to restrain some most impetuous spirits.
But this extract is exceedingly valuable on another account: It exhibits the personal wishes and feelings of his late Majesty, on the subject of an extended Toleration. None of the biographers of King George the Third has given a prominence to this lovely trait in his character and conduct, though it is that for which all the godly part of the kingdom long held his royal name in veneration. By a diligent author, it would be found, that the materials are neither few nor meagre which serve to elucidate this interesting portion of religious history. ..