« PreviousContinue »
the people's hands. But yet, though it may be the sin of the people, it may be the punishment of the magistrate, and the judgment of the kingdom.”
At the next monthly Fast, May 26, 1646, Thomas Case delivered a Discourse before the House of Commons, and gave it the title of “ Spiritual Whoredom.” In his application of the doctrine, he says: “ To you, honourable and noble patriots, I would humbly move, that you would exert that power and authority which God hath given you, to the punishing and suppressing of the adulteries and whoredoms of the land, which do stare heaven and earth in the face, and do provoke the jealousy of God, even to give England a bill of divorce, and to put us away. Arise, I say, Oh ye rulers and governors of England !
Gird your sword upon your thigh, and ride on prosperously because of truth and righteousness, and let your right hand teach you tera rible things !' (Psalm xlv. 4.) You know what Phineas did, in the case of corporal whoredom, committed in the face of God and the congregation. Then stood up Phineas, and executed vengeance, or judgment :' And you remember how well the Lord took it at his hands, · The plague was stayed, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.' (Psalm cvi. 31.) Oh that the spirit of Phineas may come upon you, that you may sheath your sword in the bowels of these monstrous whoredoms of all sorts, corporal and spiritual, which are committed in the sight of all Israel, yea in the sight of all the Churches round about us, that the blesse ing of Phineas may come upon you, and the plague may be stayed! Doth not indeed the punishing and suppressing of spiritual whoredoms against God,-idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, and the rest,--doth it not belong unto you, as well as the punishing of bodily whoredoms, theft, murder, &c. ? Doth it indeed belong to you, only to look to the Civil Peace, and to let Religion, and Truth, and the Worship of God, stand or fall to their own master? Fight God, fight devil, fight Christ, fight Antichrist! Catch, that catch can! You have nothing to do, but to stand by and look on! Say so, then ; speak out ; publish it in your Declarations to the world, and let the people of England know,
that it is the right and liberty, to which the subjects of England are born, that every man hold what he please, and publish and preach what he holds ; that it is the birth-right (as some would have it) of the free-born people of England, every man to worship God according to his own conscience, and to be of what
religion his own conscience shall dictate ! Do so, and see, fathers and brethren, how long your Civil PEACE will secure you when Religion is destroyed, how long it will be ere your Civil
famous ; they have not only followed precedents, but made them.”—This soothing doctrine might suit the Long Parliament; but the private interpretation of NECESSITY must always, on these principles, be dangerous to the community.
Peace be turned into Civil WAR! For, no doubt, if this once be granted them, but they may in good time come to know also, (there be them that are instructing them even in these principles too,) that it is their birth-right to be freed from the power of • Parliaments and from the power of Kings; and to take up arms
against both when they shall not vote and act according to their • humours ! Liberty of conscience (falsely so called) may in good time improve itself into liberty of estates, and liberty of houses, and liberty of wives, and, in a word, liberty of perdition of souls and bodies !— Prevent the further departure of the land from God, by keeping out seducers,—those seducing, malignant, Poo pish, Prelatical priests, whom you have cast out, who have been one great cause of the apostacy of England. The sins of the teachers have been the teachers of sin: They are the men, who, with Hananiah and Zedekiah, have taught rebellion against the Lord. Certainly, if ye did well in putting of them out, ye will do extremely ill in taking of them in again. Hath the King's army bettered them? Hath Oxford changed their principles ? I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that if ye suffer them to recover their stations again, or whoever of you shall for favour, reward, relation, or any other respects whatsoever, use your interest to re-invest them again into their places, you destroy what ye have builded, and will be found transgressors, and translate the blood of poor souls upon your own heads !" 4.--How far the Independents, as a Body, were favourable to Tole
ration. But these, it will be said, were only " the absurd ravings of Presbyterian Intolerants." What then were the mature opinions of the liberal Independents on this important subject ? Consisting, as the name imports, of numerous small churches of professing Christians, quite distinct froin each other and completely inde pendent, their very existence as separate religious communities under one denomination implied a mutual and enlarged TOLERATION of varieties in doctrine and discipline. (Page 389.). But the man who entertains such an idea has been deceived by the mere name; for he will find, that their toleration of varieties in docTRINE extended only to those who held the opinions of Calvin, in common with themselves: and that, with regard to varieties in DISCIPLINE, it was not allowed to reach, in every case, to those of their Predestinarian brethren who were attached to Presbyteri. anism, much less to those who were unfortunate enough to be Episcopalians. In page 449, I have said, “ Cromwell, that wary politician, seems to have acted upon the maxim of King James, in balancing the power of one party by that of its opponent;" (p. 566 ;) and on no matter was the Protector's cunning more warily evinced, than in the futile attempt in which the Inde
pendents engaged, by his direction, when the delegates of their Churches met at the Savoy, in 1658, to compose “Ā Declaration of the Faith and Order owned and practised in the Congregational Churches in England, &c.” They had been exceedingly importunate with him, and with the rest of the Republican Statesmen, who generally ranged themselves under the banners of Indepen-, dency, to grant them the supremacy after which their Presbyterian brethren had been fruitlessly aspiring ; (p. 448 ;) and, “though the Independents had the best preferments left in the Church, and opened and shut the door of preferment to others,"
(p. 447.) yet they were dissatisfied with this high degree of favour · which they enjoyed, because it was not accompanied with powers
still more extensive. (Page 444.) Cromwell, therefore, under the pretence of a wish to ascertain what security they could give to the civil magistrate for the integrity and harmlessness of their tenets as a religious body, ordered them to prepare a Confession of Faith in which they could all agree. The arch politician knew, that if they prepared any public instrument of this description, which might be considered binding on the whole denomi. nation, their Churches would immediately cease to be “ Independent,” except in name, and would by that single act assume a mild Presbyterian aspect. The pitiful subserviency of their principal men, in those days,* has induced many people to suppose, that a great majority of their Churches would have fallen into the rich snare which the Protector had laid for them, had, the latter lived; and that the rest would have preferred their real Independency, though accompanied with secular disadvantages or civil penalties. But Cromwell died prior to the completion of their famous “ Declaration;" in consequence of which; their hopes being dashed to the ground, no symptom of effective ecclesiastical power appeared in that document, except the very vague appointment of “ Messengers of Churches holding communion together," who were empowered “to meet in Synod or Council, to consider and give advice Sin cases of difficulties or differences to be reported to all the Churches concerned.”
Had the Independents succeeded in their wishes under the Procector, there is no doubt the following prophecy concerning them, from one of their Calvinistic brethren, would have been
The reader will find Dr. Owen's sycophancy to the regicides related in page 382, and, in page 448, shrewd reasons are given for “the pliability of Indepen. đency" in that age of changes. Owen's biographer boasts of the rich members of then Churches ; and, we are told by Robert Baylie, (p. 464,) that Philip Nye was “ cried down as impertinent in the Assembly of Divines, while speaking against the Presbytery.' “ The day following,” says Robert, “ when Philip
saw the Assembly full of prime nobles and chief members of both Houses, he “ entered on that argument again, and very boldly offered to demonstrate, that o our way of drawing a whole kingdom under one National Assembly, is formi. “dable, &c. Further instances of their politic subserviency will be seen in other parts of this volume.
literally fulfilled. It was pronounced by the Rev. Thomas Case, in his Sermon before the Commons, May 26, 1646 : “ Is there not idolatry found among us? Ye have pulled down idols in the Churches, and ye have done well! But, Oh! idols are multiplied in the land: Every man's opinion is become his idol, which he adores and worships with highest veneration. We have cause to be humbled for our old Popery, and our old Popish ceremonies : You, our Honourable Senators, told us so once in an Ordinance of Parliament; and ye did well. But Popery was but one way of false worship: There be a generation of men in the land that stand up for all kinds of false worship, that every man may worship God after his own conscience; or if they will not own it in words at length, they will have it in figures : And if they may not, are ready not only to cry, but to act persecution,* and that to purpose : For while they cry perse
Beside their unwearied persecution of the Episcopalians and Arminians. Richard BAXTER asserts, in the subjotned extracts from his Church Divisions, that the Independents did not treat their Presbyterian brethren with too much kind. ness : “ Was it no persecution, when many Anabaptists and Separatists made such work in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in Cromwell's time and after, as they did, when so many were turned out of the Universities for not engaging, and so many out of the Magistracy and Corporation Privileges ? And when an ordi. nance was made to, cast out all ministers, who would not pray for the success of their wars against Scotland, or that would not give God thanks for their vic. tories ? When I have heard them profess, that there were many thousand godly men that were killed at Dunbar, (to instance in no other,) and yet we were all by their ordinance to be cast out, that would not give God thanks for this. What more harsh kind of persecution could there be, than to force men to go hypocritically to God against their consciences, and take on them to beg for the success of a war, which they judged unlawful, and to return him a public coun. terfeit thanks for bloodshed, yea, for the blood of thousands ?”
This, certainly, is a very trifling display of persecution; and, if the Inde. pendents could be charged with no higher a degree of criminality than this towards the Arminians, they would appear in the foremost ranks of friends to Toleration. On the doctrines of General Redemption, they had been egregiously misinformed. They had seen Arminianism only in the form which Archbishop Laud had com. pelled it to assume, (p. 691,) and which undoubtedly was not the most attractive ; and for many years they manifested no wish to be made better acquainted with its native purity as taught by the Dutch Founder of the system. When these obnoxious doctrines did not intervene, the Independent divines were almost uniformly found to possess a greater portion of philanthropy than their Presby. terian brethren : But the Independent statesmen were generally more lenient and generous than the divines of their persuasion. One of the most outrageous High Church-men that ever wrote, has given us the following just description of the Independents, in a reply to Richard BAXTER's complaint at the com. mencement of this note : .“ Presbytery is too tyrannical for the spirit of an Independent to bear. The 56 stomach of that party would not brook it; and so they cast it up again : For 6 there is, though a licentious, yet somewhat of a practical and accommodable “ generosity in that party. But are not you aware, gentlemen, that the worse “ you speak of these people, the greater is your condemnation for making the 64 Episcopal Party still more insupportable than these [were] at the very worst 2” LESTRANGE's Casuist Uncased.
ćution gladio oris, [' with the sword of the mouth,'] they are ready to act persecution ore gladii [' at the point of the sword']. I pray God, it may never be Englished !"
What defence of themselves did the Independents publish against this charge of a General Toleration, which, they knew, was intended to apply to them? JEREMIAH BURROUGHES, one of the chief of this party, thus disclaims “ such a Toleration," in his Sermon before the House of Peers, Nov. 26, 1645: “ Let not violence be used to force people to things spiritual that they know not. If those who now have but food and raiment should have great penalties inflicted upon them, for not submitting to what they yet have no means to instruct them in, how grievous would it be! The votes of Parliament are to be honoured, and the judgment of an Assembly of godly and learned men is not to be slighted; but that which must subject men's consciences, in matters concerning Christ and his worship, must be light from the word. Let not the greatness of your power be exercised upon those who do what they can to know the mind of Jesus Christ, and would fain understand and practise more, only they dare go no further than they see Christ before them. You cannot say, Men are obstinate and will not see ; for what means hath the generality of the kingdom had to see ground out of Scripture for such great changes ? To use force upon people before they have means to teach them, is to seek to beat the nail in by the hammer of authority, without making way by the wimble of instruction. Indeed, if you have to deal with rotten or soft sappy wood, the hammer only may make the nail entér presently: But if you meet with sound wood, with heart of oak, though the hammer and hand that strikes be strong, yet the nail will hardly go in; it will turn crooked or break : Or, at least, if it enters, it may split that wood it enters into ; and, if so, it will not hold long, you have not your end. Consider, you have to deal with English consciences; there is no country so famous for firm strong baks as England; you will find English consciences to be so. • “ My Lords, you are advanced to high power and honour, in a kingdom where Christ hath as many dear saints of his, as (I had almost said) in all the world besides; He expects you should use them kindly. They have been faithful to you; even such as cannot fully come up to you, in some things you have published to the world. Where hath any one of them (though cried out upon, as troublers of the kingdom) falsified their trust in any thing you have committed to them? You sit here in peace, and enjoy your honours with abundance of mercies; in part, through the blessings of God upon their faithfulness and courage in venturing their lives for you: God forbid you should fall upon them, when your turns are served by them! Listen not to any who shall whisper such suggestions, or boldly vent such things as tend to the exasperation of your spirits this way. There is a great out